Heard the one about the Pope, Je­sus and the an­tisemite?

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY IS­ABEL DE BERTODANO

WHEN A group of Latin Amer­i­can Jews vis­ited the Vat­i­can for an au­di­ence with Pope Fran­cis last week they knew they would re­ceive a warm re­cep­tion from the Pon­tiff, who is fa­mously friendly to­wards Jews.

What they did not ex­pect was to hear him tell a joke about an an­ti­semitic Catholic pri­est.

Ac­cord­ing to Clau­dio Epel­man, exec-- utive di­rec­tor of the Latin-Amer­i­can Jewish Congress, the joke went like this: “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 much ap­pre­ci­ated the joke, and Mr Epel­man later told the Ar­gen­tine 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”.

At the end of the au­di­ence, Mr Epel­man said the Pope prayed that God “bring us closer to­gether as broth­ers and make us bet­ter at serv­ing those in need”. Af­ter a mo­ment of si­lence he con­cluded “God bless us all”.

Among those at the au­di­ence with the Pope were lead­ers of the Jewish World Congress, in­clud­ing chair­man Ron­ald Lauder and chief ex­ec­u­tive Robert Singer.

Mr Epel­man, who is Ar­gen­tinian, knew Fran­cis when he was Arch­bishop Jorge Ber­goglio of Buenos Aires.

“It was his style to as Arch­bishop of Buenos Aires to deal di­rectly with the lead­ers of the Ar­gen­tine Jewish com­mu­nity and then [when he was elected Pope] we all felt we were the Pope’s best friend,” he said.

Fran­cis has al­ways adopted an in­for­mal style, which has en­deared him to the world.

PHOTO: AP

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