Francis looks at the case of St. Stephen to note how many times in history and in our own lives justice is blocked by the ‘false news’ of gossip.
Pope Francis’ morning Mass on April 28 was offered for the situation created by the progressive easing of lockdown measures.
At this time, when we begin to have directives to exit out of quarantine, we pray the Lord will grant to His people, all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to these indications, so that the pandemic does not return.
False testimony against Stephen
In his homily, the Pope focused on the passage from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 7:51-8:1). In it Stephen courageously speaks to the people, the elders and the scribes, who judge him with false testimony, drag him out of the city and stone him.
The Doctors of the Law, explained Pope Francis, did not tolerate the clarity of doctrine, and they asked someone to say that they had heard Stephen blaspheme against God and the Law.
The Pope pointed out that “they did the same with Jesus too, trying to convince the people that He was a blasphemer.”
It is barbarity. Barbarity, to begin with false testimony to arrive at “justice.” This is the pattern. Even in the Bible there are cases like this: They did the same to Susanna, they did the same to Naboth, later on Haman tried to do the same with the people of God … fake news, calumny that incites the people and they ask justice. It’s a lynching, a true lynching.
“This also happens with the martyrs of today,” the pope observed, “when judges can’t rule in justice because the [victim] is already judged by the people. Let’s think of Asia Bibi, for example, who we’ve seen: 10 years in prison because she was judged by calumny and a people who wants her dead.”
Faced with such an avalanche of fake news that creates opinions, many times nothing can be done, nothing can be done.
“I think a lot, in this regard, of the Shoah,” said the pope, noting how the Holocaust is a case of this same phenomenon at work. “An opinion was created in opposition to a people, and then it was seen as normal: ‘Yes, yes, they must be killed, they must be killed.’ It’s a way of working to finish off someone who bothers or disturbs.”
The testimony of Truth
The truth on the other hand, emphasized Pope Francis, “is clear and transparent. Truth does not tolerate pressure. Let us look at Stephen, martyr. The first martyr after Jesus. The first martyr. Let us think of the apostles: all of them gave testimony. And let us think of many martyrs, even those of today. St. Peter Chanel — it was gossip in that case, that created the idea that he was opposed to the king — a reputation is created and he’s assassinated.
And let us think of ourselves, of our words: So many times we ourselves, with our comments, begin a lynching of this type. And in our Christian institutions, we have seen so many daily lynchings that spring from gossip.
“May the Lord help us,” said the Pope, “to be righteous in our judgments, to not begin, nor to follow the mass condemnation that is provoked by gossip.”