New York – September 22, 2015 — (UPI) — The Pontifical Mission Societies is urging Catholic talk-show hosts Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Carson Daly, Stephen Colbert, Larry Wilmore and Chris Hardwick to put their comic skills to good use in honor of Pope Francis‘ visit to the United States this week.
This will mark the first time the 78-year-old, Argentina-born pontiff will tour Washington, New York and Philadelphia since he was elected by a papal enclave in March 2013.
“This is a joyous occasion for the Church,” Father Andrew Small, the organization’s national director, said in a statement about the pope’s trip to America.
“But we plead with our Catholic, talk-show hosts not to let ratings and rivalries stand in the way of unity,” Small explained. “We’re asking that comedic heads prevail. If the pope can bring together Cuba and the United States, there’s no doubt in my mind that he can unite late night in one hilarious, group hug.”
Small went on to challenge all Catholic, late-night hosts to come together and welcome the pope by donating a funny line or two to the Joke with the Pope campaign, which the priest said is endorsed by the pontiff.
“Join Pope Francis and change the world one laugh at a time,” Small said.
People of all beliefs are invited to submit a written joke or a short video of themselves telling a joke at www.JokeWithThePope.org. They can also select a cause their joke will support: helping children in need in Argentina, housing the homeless in Ethiopia or feeding the hungry in Kenya.
After the campaign ends, the funniest joke teller will receive the title of “Honorary Comedic Advisor to the Pope,” and his or her selected charity will receive a $10,000 donation, the organization said.
O’Brien and Emmy Award-winning actor Bill Murray have already contributed G-rated jokes to the cause.
“The California drought is so bad, people in Napa are asking the pope to turn wine into water,” O’Brien quipped.
“Your Holiness, Pope Francis, Frank, Frankie. Did you hear about the two antennae that got married? The service wasn’t so great, but the reception was fantastic,” Murray said, while wearing a T-shirt that reads, “Funliness is next to goodliness.”
Colbert and Kimmel have spent airtime talking about the progressive pontiff on their respective shows The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
“I am so happy about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to New York City on Sept. 24,” Colbert declared on the Sept. 18 edition of Late Show.
“As a Catholic, that’s like Christmas coming early. Who knows? While he’s here, he could make it official. He has that power,” Colbert emphasized, pointing to a calendar with a Christmas tree placed on Sept. 24.
“People magazine recently named him Sexiest Pope Alive, but no one is more excited than New Yorkers,” Colbert continued to riff. “More than 93,000 people entered the lottery to see him in Central Park and, at Madison Square Garden, His Holiness will address a crowd of over 19,000 adoring Catholics and one guy who got to the Rangers game really early.”
Kimmel introduced guest David Muir on the Sept. 15 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Liveby explaining how the American broadcast journalist recently moderated a town hall-style television event with the pope.
“That’s crazy,” Kimmel said, clearly impressed.
“He’s not really an easy get,” Muir acknowledged. “I don’t know if you’ve tried [to book him.]”
“No, he won’t do our show,” Kimmel admitted.
Muir went on to say he was wracked with anxiety, knowing he would be interviewing the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Spanish, but he said he felt a little more at ease when the pope greeted him at the Vatican with a smile.
“Was he smiling because he didn’t understand your Spanish?” Kimmel wanted to know.
Muir then assured Kimmel he was fluent in the language, even though English is his native tongue.
“Not only is it a professional challenge, but if you screw up, you’re going to hell,” Kimmel teased. “Literally, going to hell.”
Catholic actor-producer Mark Wahlberg is to host the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia to honor the arrival of Pope Francis Saturday.
The festival will also feature appearances by singer Aretha Franklin, musical act The Fray and comedian Jim Gaffigan. The pontiff will reportedly speak at the event, which celebrates the role of families in society.
“As a Catholic, I credit much of my success to my faith,” Wahlberg said in a statement. “It is an honor to be a part of welcoming Pope Francis to Philadelphia and I am humbled to join this celebration.”
Other celebrities expected at this year’s event are Andrea Bocelli, Juanes, Marie Miller, Matt Maher, Sister Sledge and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
“I think he’s done some major, major cleansing of the whole system,” she added by way of explanation regarding who might want to harm the holy man. “I love this pope. He’s humble… He doesn’t live in the palatial whatever. I think he’s a pope of the people.”