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Father James Martin Talks Comedians at the Vatican, Meeting With Pope Francis, and More


Friend of the show, Jesuit priest, author, and editor-at-large of America Media Father James Martin stopped by Father Dave’s radio studio to discuss his recent meeting with Pope Francis, what it was like being at the Vatican with a number of famous comedians, and more. 

On Friday June 14, Pope Francis met with a number of comedians from multiple countries including Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, and Jim Gaffigan to name a few.  The meeting, according to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, was intended to “establish a link” between the Catholic Church and such artists and aimed to “celebrate the beauty of human diversity … [and] promote a message of peace, love and solidarity.” 

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Father James Martin is a consultor to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication and explains to Father Dave how he became involved. “I knew about the comedians thing about two months before they met with the pope,” Father James says. “It was organized very quickly. They wanted to do it before the Synod in October. The Dicastery for Culture and Education put it together, and I helped them out with the U.S. comedians.”

Father Dave asks, “So they are over there in Rome and they think to themselves, who knows comedians over in the states? Boom, Father Jim Martin.” “Pretty Much!” Father Jim replies.

Father Jim explains that the Dicastery for Culture and Education initially sent him a long list of over 50 comedians and humorists and asked him to narrow it down. “I talked to Stephen Colbert and Jim Gaffigan, who I know, and I said help me pick the people who are really kind of the most respected among your peers because we had to narrow it down, and then the Vatican approved it.”

Father Jim adds that there was no litmus test for the comedians who were picked. They did not have to be Catholic; it didn’t matter if they had said negative things about Pope Francis or the Catholic Church. It was more about the biggest names who are most respected in their field. 

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Despite the gathering’s quick organization, Father Jim was very happy with how it all worked out. “One of the things that was very moving for me was everyone was really honored and happy to be there. Comedians can be a little cynical sometimes, but they were really happy to be at the Vatican meeting with the Pope and were all quite moved.”

Father Jim also spoke with Father Dave about his one-on-one hour-long meeting with the pope while he was in Rome.  “We talked about two things which I can say. We talked about his comments about gay priests, which were very much in the news, and we talked about the U.S. Church.”  

Father Jim continues, “We had a very open and honest conversation about his comments about gay priests and one of the things I wanted to share was at the comedians meeting, everybody went up and shook his [Pope Francis’] hand and I went up to him, and I posted a video of this, and I said, thank you very much. And he pulls me back and he says, ‘Thank you for that conversation the other day. I really appreciated it.’ And I thought, now that’s really unusual, like, thank you for a conversation that was difficult and challenging. He didn’t have to say that. So I just think that’s a sign of how open he is. He’s learning. He listens.”