Pope Jokes Whisky Is ‘The Real Holy Water’ With Scottish Student Priests

by : Cameron Frew on : 17 Apr 2020 09:00
Pope Jokes Whisky Is 'The Real Holy Water' With Scottish Student PriestsPA Images

An aged whisky over a single block of ice, oh aye, that’s divine intervention. 

Next to Irn Bru, whisky is the sacred lifeblood of Scots up and down the country. As Billy Connolly once said: ‘I don’t know if you remember the first time you ever tasted whisky and the tremendous shock to the nervous system it is. In Scotland this usually happens around the age of four.’


For some, the soothing burn of a top-tier malt is a near-spiritual experience. If anyone can testify to that power, it’s Pope Francis, who declared whisky to be ‘the real holy water’.

Pope FrancisPA Images

The amazing tale comes from Tony Kearney, the director of one-hour BBC documentary Priest School. During the 18-month shoot, they’d filmed the Pope as he met Scottish student priests from the Pontifical Scots College in Rome at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

As he arrived at the reception, the Pope was gifted a bottle of Oban malt. Ordinarily, such presents are graciously handed off to an assistant – but this time was different.

Pope FrancisCameron Frew

Kearney told The Daily Record

When they handed him the bottle, instead of just handing it to his assistant as he normally would with a gift, he held it up and said ‘questa e la vera acqua santa’ – which means this is the real holy water. He guffawed with laughter and it was a real ice-breaker with the students and put everyone at ease.

Pope Francis is no stranger to a ‘wee hauf’. When he and the Queen first met back in 2014, she marked the occasion with a lovely bottle of whisky. When Father Jim Wallis met the Pope in 2018 after becoming spiritual director at the Pontifical Scots College, he had a similar encounter.

Queen Elizabeth II meets Pope FrancisPA Images

Father Wallis said in an earlier Dundee Courier article: 

It was a great honour to go into the Vatican and go to the chamber to meet the Pope and he came out and shook all of our hands. Then we presented him with a bottle of whisky and he looked at it and said: ‘Ha ha, that’s holy water!’ He’s obviously been gifted some whisky before.

However, don’t expect to actually see the Pope’s hilarious endorsement anytime soon. ‘We’d agreed that the Vatican’s media office would be allowed to approve all of our footage before we broadcast it. So we sent them the files and when they sent it back that bit of him saying that was cut out,’ Kearney explained.


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The clip may be censored, but the Pope’s whisky-craving legacy is impenetrable. Slàinte mhath!

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: News, Alcohol, Pope Francis, Religion, Scotland, The Vatican


The Daily Record and 1 other
  1. The Daily Record

    Vatican censors video of Pope Francis joking whisky is 'the real holy water'

  2. The Courier

    ‘That’s Holy water!’ Dundee priest gives Pope bottle of whisky after taking up role in Rome