By Alex P. Vidal
“Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s headline.”—Walter Winchell
BEFORE Pope Francis flew back to Rome during his January 2015 visit in the Philippines, his No. 1 message to the Filipino people—Catholics or non-Catholics—was: “Don’t gossip.”
At that time, the slang word “Marites” wasn’t yet coined.
Marites refers to individuals or group of individuals who love to gossip in real life and in the social media, where it originated.
Not all Filipinos may have remembered this important message by the Pope, who is in the news again after he attended the vigil in the XXXVII World Youth Day in Lisbon Portugal on August 5.
Eight years after Pope Francis’ visit in the Philippines, many Filipinos continued to gossip or make gossiping as their past time or even way of life.
Until now many lives have been shattered and families destroyed by those who dabbled or encouraged and tolerated Marites.
In real talk, some Filipinos have lost not only their reputation and relationship, but also their lives in suicides and murders while others lost their loved ones and livelihood all because of Marites.
Faithful fully aware of Pope Francis’ No. 1 message and continued to indulge in gossiping probably didn’t take him seriously, or they forgot it was a very important reminder from the leader of the 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide.
Pope Francis had implored the Filipinos not to gossip about one another’s faults, but instead to follow Jesus’ directive on fraternal correction in the Gospel of Matthew.
Seven years after his Manila visit in his Angelus address on September 6, 2022, Pop Francis declared: “When we see a mistake, a defect, a slip of a brother or sister, usually the first thing we do is go and tell others about it, to gossip. And gossip closes the heart of the community, disrupts the unity of the Church.”
“The great talker is the devil, who always goes about saying the bad things of others, because he is the liar who tries to disunite the Church, alienating brothers and sisters and unmaking community. Please, brothers and sisters, let’s make an effort not to gossip. Gossiping is a plague worse than COVID,” he told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Francis said that Catholics need to live out Jesus’ “pedagogy of rehabilitation” — described in chapter 18 of the Gospel of Matthew — “if your brother sins against you”.
He explained: “To correct a brother who has done wrong, Jesus suggests a pedagogy for rehabilitation … articulated in three steps. In the first place he says: ‘point out the fault when the two of you are alone’, that is, do not air his sin in public. It is about going to your brother with discretion, not to judge him but to help him realize what he has done.”
“How many times have we had this experience: someone comes and tells us: ‘But, listen, you are wrong in this. You should change a little in this.’ Perhaps at first we get angry, but then we are grateful because it is a gesture of brotherhood, of communion, of help, of recovery,” the pope said.
Acknowledging that at times this private disclosure of another’s fault may not be received well, Pope Francis pointed out that the Gospel says not to give up but to seek the support of another person.
“Jesus says: ‘If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses,’” the pope said.
Meanwhile, France24 reported that temperatures soared to 38 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) on August 5 (Saturday) in Lisbon and were forecast to top 40 C (104 F) on Sunday.
The heat forced pilgrims to shelter under umbrellas and makeshift shades of plastic canvas sheets tied between trash bins in the otherwise exposed field on the edge of the River Tagus.
Crews blew misters at the pilgrims to try to cool them down as they made their way into the venue, many flying their national flags. They formed long lines in the heat of the day to fill water bottles from what organizers said were more than 400 faucets around the field.
France24 said smoke from a spate of wildfire that broke out around Portugal during a weekend spike in temperatures cast a haze over the sky as they arrived on foot from all around the city for one of the liturgical highlights of the Catholic youth festival.
Citing local organizers, the Vatican said an estimated 1.5 million people were on hand.
Francis was presiding over the evening vigil after spending the morning at the Catholic shrine in Fatima.
There, he ditched his prepared speech and a prayer for peace, the third time he has opted to speak casually to the crowds in his native Spanish. The prayer had been expected to be a highlight of Francis’ visit to Fatima, given the shrine’s century-old affiliation with exhortations of peace and conversion in Russia and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Francis instead “prayed silently for peace, with pain,” while meditating for a long period before a statue of the Virgin Mary, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said. And the Vatican later posted the prayer on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
An estimated 200,000 turned out for Francis’ visit to Fatima, packing the central esplanade long before the red-tinted moon set, and the sun rose. Nearby wildfires turned the sky smoky black and sent ash snowing down on the crowd.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)