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American director Martin Scorsese said he found Pope Francis "disarming" in an interview with USA Today.
The man behind a wealth of critically acclaimed films, including Goodfellas, Gangs of New York and Wolf of Wall Street, met the Pope in Rome last week to discuss his latest work.
Hitting UK cinemas in January 2017, Silence tells the story of Jesuit priests in 17th century Japan and stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson.
The film is based on a novel of the same name by the late Japanese author Shūsaku Endō, who converted to Catholicism, and tells the story of two Jesuits sent to Japan to preach Christianity and find their mentor in the year 1670. Once there, they endure brutal persecution at the time of the Kakure Kirishitan (Hidden Christians) following the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion.
Scorsese said his meeting with the Pope at the Vatican's Apostolic Palace was moving yet light-hearted. The director said he mentioned that Andrew Garfield had undergone the Jesuits' 30 days of spiritual exercises to prepare for the role.
Scorsese told USA Today: "[The Pope] said the next thing for Andrew to do is to be ordained. And I looked at the Pope and said, 'Instead he got me.' And there was a big laugh. And it really loosened up."
Scorsese himself had a Catholic upbringing and seriously considered becoming a priest, spending a year in a seminary before he chose directing instead. Although it is unclear where he stands with regards to his faith today, his fascination with religion creeps into many of his films. He reportedly once said, "My whole life has been movies and religion. That's it. Nothing else."
Pope Francis also told Scorsese that he had read the 1966 novel on which Silence is based.
"[Pope Francis] did say, I hope the story of the film, knowing the book, bears much fruit," said Scorsese.
Before the meeting, he was given a detailed briefing on the correct protocol and exact instructions of what to say to the Pope by papal staff. However, when the two actually met, Pope Francis made everyone feel welcome.
"He was the most disarming – everything was fine," said Scorsese. "He was smiling and thanked us for being there."
During the meeting Scorsese presented the Pope with a copy of a painting of the Virgin Mary by a 17th century Japanese artist. Apparently the artwork was venerated by Christians at that time, who were forced to practise their faith in secret. The director then went on to attend a screening of his new film in a Vatican chapel.