There was a 1964 paperback floating around the seminary library called “Wit and Wisdom of Good Pope John,” written by a man named Henri Fesquet. Inside was a compilation of humorous stories about John XXIII, who died the year before the book was published. I jotted several down and recently found them during my “purging of old files” episode.
The most famous one occurred when the pope was innocently asked by a journalist how many people worked in the Vatican, he deadpanned, “About half of them.”
An even better sample of his humor occurred while visiting a hospital in Rome called the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, run by a group of Catholic sisters. As Fesquet tells the story, “The mother superior, deeply stirred by the papal visit, went up to him in order to introduce herself”: “Most Holy Father,” she said, “I am the superior of the Holy Spirit.” “Well, I must say you’re very lucky,” replied the pope. “I’m only the Vicar of Christ.”