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November 6, 2015 6:20 am

Report: Pope Francis Told Visiting Jewish Delegation Joke About Antisemitic Priest

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Pope Francis told a joke about an antisemitic Catholic priest. Photo: Casa Rosada via Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Francis. The pontiff reportedly joked about an antisemitic Catholic priest to a visiting delegation of Jews. Photo: Casa Rosada via Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Francis cracked a joke about an antisemitic Catholic priest to a group of Latin American Jews visiting the Vatican last week, the UK’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday.

Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress (LAJC), recounted the pontiff’s attempt at humor in his own words: “One day during his sermon, the priest found a way to attack Jews as usual, in a vicious way. During a pause, Jesus got down from his cross, looked at the Virgin Mary and said, ‘Let’s get out of here, Mum, they don’t seem to like us.'”

The group, which also included World Jewish Congress officials, reportedly responded positively to the joke and Epelman later told the Argentinian newspaper La Nación, “It’s incredible that the Pope would tell a joke like this. It says so much about the wonderful relationship he has with Jews.”

Epelman said the Pope then prayed that God would “bring us closer together as brothers and make us better at serving those in need.”

He also noted that he had known the pontiff when he was Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, and that the spiritual leader always had an informal style of getting to know people, which helped him connect with them.

The Pope, said Epelman, always dealt “directly with the leaders of the Argentine Jewish community and then [when he was elected Pope] we all felt we were [his] best friend.”

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  • Sherlock Holmes

    A great Catholic joke. newly ordained prists attend a public sermon by Cardinal Spellman. The cardinals grabs the congregation’s attention by announcing, ‘I spent many of my happiest moments in the arms of another man’s wife . . . my mother! One of the impressed semiarians sometime later is giving a sermon to another congregation. He begins, ‘I spent many of my happiest moments in the arms of another man’s wife’ The congregation’s shock is so powerful that it distracts the seminarian’s flow and he continues, ‘Cardinal Spellman’s mother’.

  • Lauren Goldman

    Though there is an overabundance of theorizing here, I will accept that the Pope meant the joke to be a positive thing. I believe that his heart is in the right place, but that because he is not Jewish he doesn’t see the past two millennia in the same way that we do.

  • Ariana

    I had such a good laugh! I never seen this comming: starting to like this pop. I am a Christian and most of the time if I meet a Cahtolic when we are introducing to each other I got a “formula” for waeming up: Q “What church you go?” A “Baptist.” Q “And you?”
    A “I am Catholic!” – me: “Aaa, well.. no one is perfect!”
    100% we are having best laugh! 😉

  • Jay

    Hi Albert,

    Jesus was a Jew. Hence the irony.


  • Isaac brajtman

    It’s not a joke, but a serious message by a good man

  • Barry Solomon

    The joke left out something

    The joke I heard years ago, was that someone requested that Jews leave the church ( or some other place – you choose )

    So Jesus – being Jewish – leaves the church

    Obviously the Pope is making it clear that anyone who professes to be a Christian cannot be an anti-semite since that would be anti-Jesus

    • Ariana

      That’s the only truths! Especially for Christians because as we declare to the world that we are wearing His name Christ->Christians and Jesus is Je+wish (Jesus wish Jewish be in Christ & we are forgiven by God’s Grace not by low because we are sinners 24/7) if we are real in God’s Word – we love the Jewish because we are Judaic. And Jesus didn’t come to change the low but to fulfill it. Jewish & Christians with their roots in OT are family. We suppose to love our neighbours (I have priorities 🙂 as you well see. And is so beautiful & light to love and so sick & heavy burden to hate! After all is so natural to love first those from family. So it’s OK to love first the Jews. 🙂

  • Tabitha Korol

    The purpose of the joke was to admit that Jesus was Jewish and that he was experiencing anti-semitism. I don’t judge people by their jokes but by the company they keep, and this one is attracting more Muslim than Jewish friends. I’m left quite unimpressed.

  • Reform School

    Variations of this joke have been a part of the Jewish comedy toolkit since the Second World War (at the latest).

    THAT gag you must hear told by a professional comedian. I couldn’t deliver THAT joke if I owned a FEDEX truck!

  • The “joke” is that both Jesus and Mary in fact have been and are Jews, ethnically and religiously.

  • mervyn

    Unfortunately the Catholics deny that every human Being has an eternal individual Spirit that in 99.99% of the time reincarnate to learn about Love. Being in denial is a sin that is not forgiven.

  • rbockman

    the reason you don’t get the joke is that it is just not funny, maybe a priest joke

  • Mi Grandin

    Albert Cohen: the joke is that both the virgin Mary as well as Jesus were both Jewish, according to the Christians.

  • Fred

    The Vatican never conceded that Anti Semitism started its persecutions of the Jews all the way through its ascendancy to power with the idea of the Jew as a Christ killer dreamed up by Cristomon of Nicea in Bysantium. So in the last 2000 years the persecution under Catholicism never stopped ending up with Hitlers mass murder of the Jews. There was never a withdrawal of these false acusations. Even these days that mantra is being preached in Catholic Churches. So if the joke has been done at the Jews expense is no surprise. It would be more commendable to remedy injustice than come up with a cheap joke.

  • racy we

    I was done with this Pope the day he said he recognized the Palestinians. The world is in turmoil. ISIS is killing Christians, Kurds; wants to wipe Israel off the map;
    wants the end to a free, civilized world; but his big speech in the U.S. was about global warming;WHAT GIVES?!!!!!!!

  • Dr. Rafi Mevorach

    RE: Mr. Albert Cohen’s statement that he did not understand Pope Francis’joke. Does Mr. Cohen not know that Jesus and his Mother were Jewish?
    I thought the joke was incredibly funny (knowing that Jesus and his “Mum” were Jews).
    Might I suggest that Mr. Cohen refer to the early Gospels of the Christian Bible?
    I wish that Pope Francis would be quoted more often, telling his jokes! What a great sense of humor!

    • Ariana

      He must have some Jewish bacground in his genes… and surelly not even knowing… 😀 😀 😀

  • iris

    Friendly is as friendly does. Better wait and see. RCC is all about being pc.

  • Albert Cohen

    My comment was extremely respectful.
    I do not understand the joke.
    Is that bad?

    • rulierose

      you don’t understand the joke? what don’t you understand? seems pretty clear–and pretty funny–to me.

    • Angus Cargill

      Is it that the priest doesn’t realise that Jesus was a Jew?

    • Don Mitchell

      He means that when the priest stopped speaking badly about Jews, Jesus on the cross in the church behind the priest got down from the cross and spoke to his mother saying that they should get out of the church because they–or the priest–do not like them since they are Jews.

    • Mark

      The joke is that the Pope is acknowledging that both Jesus and Mary were Jews and that when an anti-Semitic priest attacks and insults the Jews, he is attacking the basis of his own religion. The joke is not that funny but it represents an advance in Catholic thinking since the church’s original stance was that Jesus was a Christian, not a Jew. The joke is an amazing gesture on the part of the Pope towards the Jews and towards reconciliation with the Jews.

    • Joy

      I’d say that although it shows a warm informality & even warmth of character toward his Jewish brethern, it still borders on the disrespectful – unless, told in their native Argentinian Spanish, it conveyed a warmth and respect that only certain language nuances probably could.

  • Albert Cohen

    I already left a comment. What’ s wrong

  • Albert Cohen

    I have high respect for the Pope he is a great human being but I do not get the joke.

    • Gene Fisher

      The joke condemns antisemitism as hatred of all Jews. The priest, repeating ancient Christian anti-Jewish sentiments, is corrected by Jesus and Mary, who were Jews. To be antisemitic is to hate Jesus and Mary. One cannot be a Christian and hate Jews.

    • Chagoot Gardner

      It’s because Jesus and his mom were Jewish people. It’s saying that if this priest doesn’t like Jews, then he doesn’t like Jesus.
      My Catholic mother said similar things. Someone wouldn’t let Jews into a golfing club and reading about this, she said that when the owner of that club reached heaven, Jesus would say to him, “Remember that guy you wouldn’t let in? His great-many-times grandmother used to babysit me, so guess where you go now?”

    • Robert Davis

      Maybe he meant jews like to be kicked in the ass. Since this is true I won’t get mad with him. Still it is bad taste.