10 Great Jokes told by Saint John XXIII


john231If you’re like me, your idea of the papacy for most of your life was synonymous with a certain Polish guy who went around the planet showing the rest of us what the the deal is and spent his spare time being one of the most influential historical figures of the twentieth century.

Consequently, if you are like me, you have a woefully inadequate understanding of the other great pope who is being canonized this weekend, the one and only John XXIII.

Basically, all you know about him can be summed up thus:

Fat, Italian, Vatican II.

Well, as a favor to you, I’ve taken it upon myself to do some research, and I’m here to tell you that “Good Pope John” wasn’t just another chubby pontiff who went around calling councils.

No, you simple-minded fool, there was much more to the man than that.

As it turns out, he also had a great sense of humor.  Probably because he was fat and Italian.

Via Catholic News Service, here are ten of John XXIII’s finest quips, comebacks, and one-liners.


1.  Visiting a hospital he asked a boy what he wanted to be when he grew up.  The boy said either a policeman or a pope.  “I would go in for the police if I were you,” the Holy Father said.  “Anyone can become a pope, look at me!”

2.  “It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about the serious problems afflicting the world and I tell myself, I must talk to the pope about it.  Then the next day when I wake up I remember that I am the pope.”

3.  In reply to a reporter who asked, “How many people work in the Vatican?”, he reportedly said: “About half of them.”

4.  When a cardinal complained that a rise in Vatican salaries meant a particular usher earned as much as the cardinal, the pope remarked:  “That usher has 10 children; I hope the cardinal doesn’t.”

5.  When he went to visit a friend at the nearby Hospital of the Holy Spirit in the evening, the nun answering the door said: “Holy Father, I’m the mother superior of the Holy Spirit.”  He replied: “Lucky you!  What a job!  I’m just the ‘servant of the servants of God.’”

6.  Not long after he was elected pope, Blessed John was walking in the streets of Rome.  A woman passed him and said to her friend, “My God, he’s so fat!”  Overhearing what she said, he turned around and replied, “Madame, I trust you understand that the papal conclave is not exactly a beauty contest.”

7.  He once wrote:  “There are three ways to face ruin: women, gambling, and farming.  My father chose the most boring one.”

8.  When he was a cardinal and patriarch of Venice, the future pope was talking with a wealthy city resident and told him, “You and I have one thing in common: money.  You have a lot and I have nothing at all.  The difference is I don’t care about it.”

9.  When a journalist asked the then-patriarch of Venice what he would be if he could live his life all over again, the future pope said, “Journalist.”  Then he added with a smile, “Now let us see if you have the courage to tell me that, if you could do it all over again, you’d be the patriarch!”

10.  A Vatican official told the pope it would be “absolutely impossible” to open the Second Vatican Council by 1963.  “Fine, we’ll open it in 1962,” he answered.  And he did.


Good stuff.