Within a week, Americans will be able to share a joke with Pope Francis and, by doing so, help support a mission cause.
Celebrities such as Bill Murray, Conan O’Brien, George Lopez, Whitney Cummings, David Copperfield and Al Roker have joined the cause and recorded jokes. Even Jesuit Father Jim Martin has welcomed the pope with a recorded joke about a Franciscan and a Jesuit who reach the pearly gates.
The site is sponsored by the Pontifical Mission Societies, and it goes live Sept. 8, said Oblate Father Andrew Small, director.
On that date, people can visit JokeWithThePope.org and select one of three causes: needy children in Argentina, homeless people in Ethiopia or hungry people in Africa. Then, they assign a written joke or record a joke and assign it to that cause.
“For those that are comedically challenged, you hit a button and it spits out a joke for them,” Father Small said. “We have a lot original jokes.”
The funniest participant will be chosen at the end of the campaign to receive the first-ever official title of honorary comedic adviser to the pope, and his or her cause will receive a $10,000 donation.
Note: Father Small said all jokes will be screened.
As fun as JokeWithThePope sounds, its larger aim is to point people toward the Pontifical Mission Societies’ new Missio app, which will be relaunched in English Sept. 10. Other language versions will follow. People who downloaded an earlier version of the app will find it has totally changed; on Sept. 10 they can download it from Google Play or the Apple App Store.
The new app will allow “open-source philanthropy.” People can choose from dozens of projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Besides supporting them financially, they can share information about the project with friends through social media channels or organize an event or other action in their community to help support the project.
“You will be able to communicate with the project leaders directly,” Father Small said. For instance, a parish with a twinning project can keep in touch with the project’s process all year long.
The app will allow “unfiltered access to the change-makers on the ground,” Father Small said, “direct access to someone … who is making a difference half a world away.”
Project leaders must answer some questions to put their project on the Missio platform. But people who support a project can also place it on the app.
“If you’re Mary in Milwaukee who has a twinning project you, Mary … can put up a project in Haiti,” as long as she can satisfy the criteria, Father Small said.
“It goes through the church’s secure financial transfer mechanism, particularly through the papal ambassadors in each country … to the eventual project.” This is the way the societies fund all their projects, he added.