The Pope and 100 comedians enter the Vatican…

Before heading to the southern Italian region of Puglia to meet world leaders at the G7 summit, Pope Francis hosted a very different audience at the Vatican on Friday to celebrate the importance of humour.

The Pope received more than 100 comedians from 15 countries, including American celebrities Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Rock, Stephen Colbert and Conan O’Brien.

“In the midst of so much bleak news, immersed in so many social and even personal emergencies, you have the ability to spread peace and smiles,” Francis told the comedians.

“You unite people, because laughter is contagious,” he continued, jokingly asking: “Please pray for me: for, not against!”

Francis noted that in creation, “divine wisdom exercised your art for the benefit of no one but God himself, the first spectator in history,” with God delighting in the works he had made.

“Remember this,” he added. “When you can put clever smiles on the lips of even one spectator, you make God smile too.”

Whoopi Goldberg, center, leaves after meeting with Pope Francis in Clementine Hall
Whoopi Goldberg, center, leaves after meeting with Pope Francis in Clementine Hall (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Francis also said it was okay to “laugh at God” in the same way “we play and joke with the people we love.”

After his speech, Francis greeted all the comedians individually, and shared laughter and jokes with each other.

“He was great, really fast and really likeable, and he made me happy,” Goldberg said afterward.

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O’Brien noted that the pope “spoke in Italian, so I’m not entirely sure what was said.”

“Being in that room and being with all my fellow comedians, some of whom I’ve been good friends with for many years, in that environment, was very surreal,” the TV presenter added. “We were all thinking, ‘How did this happen? Why are we here, and when are they going to kick us out?’

Chris Rock, left, and Conan O'Brien arrive to meet Pope Francis in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican
Chris Rock, left, and Conan O’Brien arrive to meet Pope Francis in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Colbert admitted that his Italian is “really bad, and I wish I could speak it better.” But he managed to remind the Pope that he had prepared the audiobook of his memoirs.

“It was great,” he joked. “He will never forget me.”

Later on Friday, Pope Francis became the first pope to address a G7 summit, warning world leaders that artificial intelligence should never be allowed to get the upper hand over humanity.

A group of world leaders warmly embraced the 87-year-old Pope as he walked around their huge oval table, pushed in a wheelchair as his advanced age and infirmity limit his ability to move.

Pope Francis shakes hands with US President Joe Biden
Pope Francis shakes hands with US President Joe Biden (AFP via Getty Images)

The Pope said that artificial intelligence represents a “historic transformation” for humanity, but stressed the need for close monitoring of constantly evolving technology to preserve human life and dignity.

“No machine should ever choose to end a human life,” he said, adding that people should not let super-powerful algorithms decide their fate.

“We will condemn humanity to a hopeless future if we deprive people of their ability to make decisions about themselves and their lives, by condemning them to depend on the choices of machines,” he warned.

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