Irish Comedians to Meet Pope

Irish Comedians to Meet Pope
Ardal O’Hanlon, Tommy Tiernan, and Patrick Kielty are part of an international delegation of comedians who will meet Pope Francis on Friday. But will they be eating their words in the Vatican?

Have you heard the one about the three Irish comedians who walked into the Vatican? As part of the Holy See’s efforts to spread the word, it arranges all sorts of surprising meetings for the Pope. This one involves around 100 comedians and aims to “celebrate the beauty of human diversity andpromote a message of peace, love, and solidarity.” It “promises to be a moment of meaningful intercultural dialogue and sharing of joy and hope.”

The statement recalled Pope Francis during an interview with Italian TV channel TV2000, where he said that he prays daily in the words of St. Thomas More, asking the Lord to grant him a sense of humor.

The three Irish representatives are household names here, each having a complex relationship with the Church.

Ardal O’Hanlon

O’Hanlon shot to fame playing a priest, the dimwitted Father Dougal on “Father Ted.” While it sparked some controversy at the time, most of the comedy in “Father Ted” comes not from mockery of the Church but from the absurdity of priests in their clerical garments engaging in exaggerated, mundane activities unrelated to Catholicism or priestly duties. The humor directed at the Church may have been somewhat sharp in mid-’90s Ireland, but it reads as playful today.

Most recently, O’Hanlon presented an RTÉ documentary on ‘The Last Priests in Ireland’ and admitted he was a hypocrite for being an atheist yet having his children baptised. “I have renounced my god and my religion, yet I still ask a Catholic priest to come along and baptise my child,” he points out. “Am I a hypocrite?”

However, O’Hanlon might hope the Pope has never caught any of his BBC sitcom “My Hero,” which atheists and Catholics can surely agree is a crime against comedy.

Patrick Kielty

The father of the host of the “Late Late Show, Jack, was a prominent Catholic, killed by loyalists in 1988. The comedian rarely talks about his faith but has been outspoken against sectarianism.

Kielty was raised as a Roman Catholic in County Down, Northern Ireland. His father’s murder by loyalist paramilitaries in 1988 profoundly impacted him and his family. In various interviews and documentaries, such as the BBC’s “My Dad, the Peace Deal, and Me,” Kielty has spoken about the power of faith to help people forgive and process unbelievably traumatic events.

He has been critical of Catholic schools, saying, “I think we really have to address education, segregated education, and I think that as a society we kind of have to start calling out that casual sectarianism.”

He did have a Catholic wedding in Rome, flying over his parish priest to oversee his marriage to TV star Cat Deeley. The pair married in St Isidore’s College church with close family and friends present, with one revealing they only found out about the wedding at the very last minute. He managed to persuade local parish priest Father Gary Donegan to keep his trip to the Vatican a secret until the church.

Tommy Tiernan

Tommy Tiernan has perhaps the deepest and most complex relationship with the Church. Most famous now for his part in “Derry Girls” and his improvised talk show, he shot to prominence in 1997 with a controversial routine about the crucifixion. “The first inkling I got of people’s anger,” Tiernan said later, “was when RTÉ informed me they’d had over 300 calls. The people who couldn’t get through on the phone drove out there. They were very upset and wanted to see me.”

RTÉ pulled the scheduled repeat of the show the following Tuesday morning. Joe Mulholland, managing director of television at RTÉ, says they did so to avoid compounding the original mistake of letting the material—a skit on a priest’s sermon about the Crucifixion, part of a seven-minute slot—through. He says if it wasn’t suitable for the Friday show, it was still less so for the morning screening, which more elderly people watch. Mulholland said, “Personally, I wasn’t amused by the sketch. It was in bad taste.”

Tiernan parlayed the controversy into an award-winning Edinburgh Festival show but was always a more complex figure than that row suggested. He harboured early ambitions of being a priest himself, and his material has frequently engaged with the Catholic faith in a curious and fascinated way that resonates with many believers. He recently said he considered himself a Catholic of sorts.

“You have to choose a path that rewards you the most,” he said. “Even though you know it’s an enchantment of sorts, you choose a path. For me, right now, this particular moment in time, it’s Catholicism. My heart gets so rewarded, I feel like it’s a bountiful, proper place for me.”

And while his faith may be unconventional, it feels alive when he talks about it. “It’s a faith of uncertainty, it starts off with silence. The initial relationship is with silence, and then everything after that is a cultural detail. Everything after the silence is man-made. The Church is man-made, the Ten Commandments, the Bible… but the initial thing is with silence. Whatever is going on in the world, that doesn’t really affect that.

‘I’m born and raised in a Catholic country, so by nature and design I’m Catholic, so that’s how I’d describe it. I love churches, and I love Mass.”

Exactly what the Pope will make of the three funnymen remains to be seen, but a conversation between the Pope and Tiernan is the one I’d most like to be a fly on the wall for.

Read more – The Greatest Catholic Jokes of all Time