The Pope, a priest, and Bill Murray walk into a bar… Just kidding. Sort of. But if you can come up with a funny ending to that joke, you should “donate” it to the just-launched Joke with the Pope campaign, sponsored by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. The campaign is an effort to raise awareness and funds for three pontifical missions throughout the world, just ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. and the organization’s launch of their new app, Missio. Jokes can be written or filmed and submitted online at jokewiththepope.org, and the person voted as the funniest jokester will get to choose which of the three missions will receive a $10,000 donation. Oh, and they'll also receive the title of “honorary comedic adviser to the Pope,” the first-ever person in the history of the Church to receive such a title. Probably. Father Andrew Small, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, said he thought the campaign would be a fun way to raise awareness of the missions in the spirit of Pope Francis. “I've met him several times and there's that great spirit of warmth and connection that he has, so we thought this would be sort of an off-beat way to introduce people to the Church's missionary activity and to create this sort of spirit of connection, which comes from Pope Francis,” he told CNA. Francis, of course, is the same Pope who wrote “The Joy of the Gospel” encyclical, in which he wrote that missionaries especially should not be known for being “sourpusses,” Fr. Small said. At the time this article was written, the campaign already received 400 jokes from people — Catholics and non-Catholics — from 22 countries throughout the world. It has also attracted some big-name contributors, including late-night television host Conan O'Brien, who joked on his show: “The California drought is so bad, people in Napa are asking the pope to change the wine into water.” Other well-known Pope jokesters include Cardinal Timothy Dolan, EWTN TV host Raymond Arroyo, and even actor Bill Murray, who is kind of the “godfather” of the project and will help judge which joke is the funniest, Fr. Small said. “God works in mysterious ways,” Fr. Small said when asked how Murray became involved. “When we spoke to him about it he was very excited, he has a Catholic background, one of his sisters is a Dominican nun, so he’s got that in his bones and in his blood.” The three causes that the winner will be able to choose from are helping children in need in Argentina, housing the homeless in Ethiopia, or feeding the hungry in Kenya. The Argentinian cause, based out of Buenos Aires, has a special connection to Pope Francis. Father Pepe, the parish priest in the area, is a long-time acquaintance of the Pope’s back when he was Archbishop of the diocese, and considers Francis his spiritual father. Fr. Small said besides being a fun way to spread the spirit of Pope Francis before his U.S. visit, the campaign is a way to raise awareness of the new Missio app, which helps connect people to similar causes throughout the world. “Pontifical Mission Societies is responsible for missionary activity in 1150 dioceses around the world, mostly in Africa and Asia, and also in Latin America,” Fr. Small said. The app will help connect users to people throughout the various missions, and from there they can learn about the people involved and offer prayers or financial support. “Humor gets us over that initial bump of trying to meet new people who are not your family and friends, he said. “You tell a joke, you learn about the good causes that the Church is engaging in throughout the world, and then you stay connected through the app.” Jokes can be donated to the campaign on jokewiththepope.org through Oct. 2, and the winner will be announced Oct. 5. The Missio app is available for free download in the App Stores and Google Play.
Catholic News Agency was founded in 2004, in response to Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization." It is an apostolate of EWTN News.