During his Wednesday address to the general public in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope explored the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
“We all live by communicating, and we are continuously on the edge between truth and lies,” Francis said, adding that misinformation is inherently dangerous “because the tongue kills like a knife.”
The media-savvy pontiff is known for using hyperbolic speech to emphasize a point, and potentially steal a few headlines in the process, especially as his church is beset with a growing number of child sex abuse scandals.
He went one step further on Wednesday in reiterating previous remarks in which he equated gossipers and liars to terrorists: “Gossipers are terrorists because with their tongues they drop a bomb and then leave, and the bomb they drop destroys reputations everywhere.”
“Don’t forget: to gossip is to kill,” the pope warned.
From South America, to the US, and across Europe, more and more abuse survivors are coming forward, forcing the church to pay over $4 billion in compensation worldwide.
The Pope tweeted later on Wednesday that Jesus requires absolute, unwavering faith and that loving Jesus is a case of “all or nothing” for Catholics around the world.
However, many online saw the Pope’s strongly worded message as a potentially veiled swipe at abuse survivors, or a cynical attempt to shift news coverage away from the multiple sex scandals and alleged cover-ups recently revealed.
“You might want to criticize the Holy Father for being repetitive, but this is important to me,” Francis told a congregation of clergy and the faithful in Bangladesh late last year when he criticised gossip.
In January of this year, Pope Francis described gossip as a “bomb” while addressing a group of 500 nuns in Peru. Peru had been gripped by a child sex abuse scandal, with the Pope ordering the takeover of an elite Catholic society there, after its incumbent leader was put on trial for child sex abuse.
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