A banner depicting St. John XXIII hangs from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 27. CNS photo/Paul Haring.

John XXIII, the witty saint

  • April 30, 2014

Pope John XXIII’s ascension to saint status, along with Pope John Paul II, sent me on a quest to find some of the new St. John XXIII’s wittiest remarks.

Renowned for his accomplishments such as the Second Vatican Council and his seriously good encyclicals about social justice issues and peace, John’s wit was razor-sharp and so endearing. It’s no wonder his nickname was “The Good Pope.” Many of his jokes, quips and wisecracks were recounted around the time of his canonization on April 27. So I thought it would be fun to try to track down even more than the most famous ones such as when a reporter asked him how many people worked at the Vatican and he answered: “about half of them.”

Through the research a couple things popped to mind. First, the striking similarities in his humour with that of Pope Francis. Second, when it came to his humour no one was off limits, even God, and especially himself.

So, from the 1964 book Wit and Wisdom of Good Pope John by Henri Fesquet and Google searches, herein is my Top 10 list of St. John XXIII’s jokes, quips and humour. (The “about half ” quip is a great line but is excluded simply because it is so well known.)

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