Pope Francis met with Martin Scorsese on Wednesday morning before his weekly public audience.
The Oscar-winning director was in Rome to present his new film Silence, about 17th-century Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in Japan.
Scorsese, who was raised Catholic and at one point considered becoming a priest, was visibly moved by his meeting with Pope Francis.
The pontiff, himself a Jesuit, told Scorsese that the topic was of great interest to him. As a young priest in Argentina, he had wanted to travel to Japan as a missionary, but was restricted from going because of health reasons.
The pope told Scorsese that he had also read the 1966 Shusaku Endo book Silence, upon which the film was based.
In Scorsese’s adaptation, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play Portuguese Jesuit missionaries who are persecuted after traveling to Japan in search of their mentor (Liam Neeson). They were faced with the choice of a torturous death or trampling an image of Jesus and renouncing their faith.
Scorsese gifted the pope an image of the Madonna by a 17th-century Japanese artist. “This is the most revered image of the hidden Christians,” said Scorsese, referring to Japanese converts at the time who practiced their new religion in secret.
Tuesday night 300 Jesuits gathered at the Pontifical Oriental Institute to watch the film, where Scorsese held an hourlong impromptu Q&A after the screening.
Scorsese’s welcoming at the Vatican took place 28 years after he angered church officials with his film The Last Temptation of Christ, which featured a controversial Jesus dream sequence.
He has called Silence a passion project 27 years in the making. Scorsese will host a second smaller screening at the Vatican on Wednesday afternoon. It is rare that the pope would attend a film screening, but it is not known if he will make an exception this time.
Paramount will release the historical drama in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 23 before its wide release in January. It opens in Italy on Jan. 12.
300 Jesuits listen to Martin Scorsese after a screening of his new film "Silence" at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome tonight. AMDG pic.twitter.com/vF63A9etIN
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) November 29, 2016