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Pope Francis meets with real Philomena Lee and actor Steve Coogan

By Daniel S Levine,

Philomena Lee, the real-life inspiration behind current Best Picture nominee Philomena, and actor Steve Coogan met with Pope Francis in Rome. The two made the trip in support of the Philomena Project, which seeks to reunite children with their parents who were forced to give them up for adoption like Lee was 50 years ago.

Lee, 80, her daughter Jane Libbteron and Coogan went to mass in St Peter's Square before they met the pope, reports The Guardian. The group will also attended a screening of the film in the Vatican today and a press conference is set for Thursday.

They are representing The Philomena Project, which is inspired by Lee’s own journey to reunite with her son, 50 years after she was forced to give him up for adoption. Coogan plays a journalist in the film, chronicling Lee’s story. Judi Dench played Lee and earned an Oscar nomination for her performance.

“I am honoured and delighted to have been in the presence of Pope Francis today,” Lee said wednesday, reports The BBC. “As the film portrays, I have always put great faith in the Church and the goodwill to put the wrongs of the past right. I hope and believe that his Holiness Pope Francis joins me in the fight to help the thousands of mothers and children who need closure on their own stories.”

Coogan was a main driving force in getting the movie made, as he also co-wrote and co-produced the film. He is nominated for Best Picture as a producer and for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was directed by Stephen Frears.

Father Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said that Pope Francis did not see the film and that his meeting with Lee was not a publicity stunt. “The Holy Father does not see films, and will not be seeing this one. It is also important to avoid using the Pope as part of a marketing strategy,” he told the Guardian.

image: The Weinstein Company

 

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