Words can be "kisses, caresses, or balms” but also "knives, swords, or bullets.”
“Silence is the language of God and it is also the language of love,” writes Pope Francis in the preface to a book by Capuchin friar Emiliano Antenucci titled “Non sparlare degli altri” (“Don’t speak ill of others”), republished in January 2021 by the Italian publisher Effata.
For the Argentinean pontiff, not speaking ill of others is not only a moral act but also a gesture of humanity, because “when we ‘speak ill’ of others, we defile the image of God that is in every man.”
Therefore, the choice of words we use is essential. For they can be “kisses, caresses, or balms” but also “knives, swords, or bullets.”
The Bishop of Rome warns, “We are ‘terrorists’ when we throw ‘bombs’ of gossip, slander, and envy.” Making his own the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta, the pope recalls that: “The fruit of silence is prayer/ The fruit of prayer is faith/ The fruit of faith is love/ The fruit of love is service/ The fruit of service is peace.”
In order to rediscover the right way to use our words, he invites us to entrust ourselves to the Virgin of Silence.
Pope Francis is particularly attached to this representation of the Virgin. In 2016, he blessed this icon painted by Benedictine nuns from the Mater Ecclesiae convent on the island of San Giulio in the middle of Lake Orta in northern Italy.
Of Byzantine inspiration, it represents Mary with her index finger on her mouth, as an invitation to silence and introspection. The icon was offered to him in 2016 by Brother Emiliano.
The pope chose to hang a copy in front of the elevator at the main entrance of the Vatican Apostolic Palace.