Pope Francis to Receive Movie Director Martin Scorsese in Private Audience

Renowned movie director to premiere his new film 'Silence' in front of hundreds of Jesuits at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.

Film director Martin Scorsese.
Film director Martin Scorsese. (photo: Wikipedia)

Pope Francis will receive film director Martin Scorsese in a private audience at 8.45a.m. on Wednesday, shortly before the Holy Father gives his weekly catechesis in St. Peter’s square.

The famed director of such movies as the mafia-themed Goodfellas and what many considered to be the blasphemous Last Temptation of Christ will be in Rome to present his new film Silence.

The movie, adapted from the 1966 novel by Japanese writer Shusaku Endo about the persecution of a group of Jesuits in 17th-century Japan, will be premiered at the Vatican on Dec. 1. At that time, the faith was banned, and those who practiced it were tortured and executed.

Silence is the culmination of a 27-year project that the director has described as “an obsession”.

Around 400 Jesuits and guests are expected to attend the premiere at the Jesuit-run Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. The picture, which stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson, is set to hit American screens on December 23 and Italian ones on January 12, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

Scorsese hired Jesuit Father James Martin as a consultant on the film to make it more accurate and authentic. The stars also prepared themselves for their roles by taking part in a seven-day silent retreat at St Beuno’s, a Jesuit spiritual centre with spectacular views of Snowdonia in north Wales, according to the Guardian newspaper.

“Andrew [Garfield] got to the point where he could out-Jesuit a Jesuit,” Father Martin told the New York Times. “There were places in the script where he would stop and say, ‘A Jesuit wouldn’t say that’, and we would come up with something else.”

Before going into the movie business, Scorsese reportedly tried a possible vocation to be a priest. Raised in a Catholic home and educated at a Catholic school, he spent a year in seminary. He has said his beliefs have impacted his films ever since, once remarking: "My whole life has been movies and religion. That’s it. Nothing else."

In an interview three years ago, Scorsese said he had been “steeped in the Roman Catholic religion” as a young man, adding: “As you get older, ideas come and go. Questions, answers, loss of the answer again and more questions, and this is what really interests me.”

Silence, he added, is "a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions.”

Pope Francis will meet Scorsese in the Sala dei sediari of the apostolic palace but he is not expected to attend the screening of the 159-minute movie. 

UPDATE: 30 Nov., 2016

As scheduled, the Pope this morning received Scorsese, his wife and their two daughters, along with the producer of the film "Silence" and his wife. The guests were accompanied by Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications.

"The meeting was very cordial and lasted about fifteen minutes," the Vatican said in a statement. "The Pope told those present that he had read the book "Silence" which had inspired the film. He then spoke of how the Jesuits "sowed the seed" in Japan and the "Museum of the 26 Martyrs."

"The director gave the Holy Father two pictures related to the theme of "hidden Christians"; one of them depicts a much venerated image of the Blessed Virgin, the other a work by a Japanese artist of the eighteenth century. The Pope gave the guests a few rosaries."