THE Pope has urged worshippers to steer clear of gossip - saying it is a plague worse than the coronavirus.

During Pope Francis's weekly address from a window above St Peter’s Square he said gossip could be used to divide the Roman Catholic Church.

“Please, brothers and sisters, let us make an effort not to gossip,” said . “Chatter is a plague more awful than Covid!

"Worse. Let’s make a big effort: no gossiping!”

“The devil is the great gossip. He is always saying bad things about others because he is the liar who tries to split the Church,” the Pope added as he strayed from a prepared weekly blessing.

The Pope has regularly warned about gossiping within church communities and the Vatican bureaucracy.

HeraldScotland: Pope Francis

Gossip, he added, closes a person's heart to the community and hurts the Church's unity, he said, adding that the devil is the great gossiper who seeks to sow discord.

“When we see a brother or sister make a mistake or with a defect,” said Pope Francis, “the first thing we do is go tell others about it. We gossip.

“If something goes wrong, offer silence and prayer for the brother or sister who make a mistake, but never gossip,” he said on Sunday.

The Pope's comments came as he elaborated on a gospel passage about the need to correct others privately when they do something wrong.

The Catholic hierarchy has long relied on this “fraternal correction” among priests and bishops to correct them when they err without airing problems in public.

Survivors of sexual abuse have said this form of private reprimand has allowed abuse to fester in the church and let both predator priests and superiors who covered up for them escape punishment.