Pope arrives at G7 for historic address after morning of comedy

AFP , Friday 14 Jun 2024

Pope Francis arrived at a G7 summit Friday in Italy, the first head of the Catholic Church to take part in the meeting of rich democracies, after a morning clowning with comedians at the Vatican.

Pope Francis shaking hands with US actress Whoopi Goldberg as part of an audience with comedians in
Pope Francis shaking hands with US actress Whoopi Goldberg as part of an audience with comedians in The Vatican. AFP

 

The pontiff will speak about the risks and rewards of artificial intelligence and hold 10 bilaterals, including with the leaders of the United States, India, Ukraine, Turkey and Brazil.

The 87-year-old, who has suffered from mobility issues in recent years, arrived in Puglia by helicopter and was welcomed by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

The pair laughed and joked together as they got into a golf cart bearing the papal insignia to drive the short distance to meet the other leaders at the luxury Borgo Egnazia resort.

Francis has been asked by Meloni to talk about the moral quandaries surrounding artificial intelligence (AI).

The pope has previously warned of the dangers of AI and called for a global treaty to ensure the technology is used ethically.

At the bilateral, Francis will discuss pressing global issues, including the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.

 

Goofing around
 

The pontiff spent the morning ahead of the summit clowning around with over 100 top global comedians including Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock and Jimmy Fallon.

His meeting with "artists from the world of humour" was part of his efforts to engage with contemporary culture, according to the Vatican.

"Instead of reading my speech, I'll just do this", the grinning pontiff said, as he stuck his thumb in his ear and wiggled his fingers at a room full of humourists.

But he had a serious message too for the comedians gathered from 15 countries, from Argentina to Germany and East Timor.

"Immersed as we are in many social and personal emergencies, you have the power to spread serenity and smiles", the pope told them.

"You are among the few to have the ability to speak to very different people, from different generations, backgrounds and cultures," Francis said.

The 107 comedians included Britain's Stephen Merchant, from the TV show "The Office", US stand-up comedian Chris Rock, and Italy's Silvio Orlando, who played a scheming cardinal in "The Young Pope".

Seconds before Francis arrived, Jimmy Fallon, host of the "Tonight Show" in the US, had the room in fits of laughter as he pranced around at the front.

"Sister Act" star Whoopi Goldberg and Julia Louis-Dreyfus of "Seinfeld" fame waved from the front row as the pope entered the gilded and frescoed room at the Vatican.

Goldberg has previously joked about offering the pope a cameo in "Sister Act 3".

Asked if she pressed Francis on it Friday, she quipped that "it wasn't the right moment, I'll probably send him an email", according to ANSA news agency.

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