One of my favorite jokes concerns a mate of the pope. And today is just the right time to tell this joke, coinciding with the arrival of Benny Sixteen in France.
Six months ago, when a renowned rabbi from Jerusalem was visiting France, he was received at the president's palace. He asked Carla Bruni: "Would it be possible for me to meet up with my French mate Albert Dupont? " Carla and the presidential staff were embarrassed, because they had never heard of Albert Dupont. The next day, after a lot of frantic investigations, they succeeded in tracking down this Albert Dupont: an obscure employee in a factory on the outskirts of Paris. They asked the factory manager for permission to take Dupont back to the Elysées Palace to meet up with the distinguished rabbi from Jerusalem. Dupont was still dressed in his blue workman's overalls when he got together with the rabbi. It was a friendly back-slapping encounter, as if the two men had known each other for ages.
Later on, the same kind of situation arose when the Dalai-Lama was visiting France. He said to Carla Bruni: "I would dearly like to see my mate Albert Dupont." As before, a presidential automobile dashed out to the suburban factory where Albert was working, and brought him back to a get-together with the Dalai-Lama. And, as before, onlookers had the impression that the two men were old friends.
Carla Bruni was intrigued. She asked Albert: "Monsieur Dupont, how come you're on such friendly terms with these two great spiritual leaders: the Jerusalem rabbi and the Dalai-Lama? " Albert was nonchalant: "Oh, they're just a couple of good mates I've known for ages. It's the same as the pope." Carla was surprised: "You don't mean to tell me you're a friend of Benedict XVI ? " Albert assured her that this was the case: "Just drop in at Lourdes during the pope's forthcoming visit, Madame Sarkozy, and you'll see for yourself."
More intrigued than ever, Carla Bruni drove down to Lourdes, disguised as a pilgrim. She found herself in the midst of an immense crowd of enthusiastic hymn-singing pilgrims. Suddenly Benedict XVI appeared on a balcony in front of the crowd. And, sure enough, his old mate Albert Dupont was standing alongside him, dressed as usual in his blue workman's overalls, and waving to the crowd, who were now in a state of religious fervor. An old lady in black, clutching her rosary beads, nudged Carla and asked: "Excuse me, Madame. Who's the old fellow in white standing alongside Albert Dupont? "