Leonardo DiCaprio paid Pope Francis a visit on Thursday — not to gear up for a new role, but to collaborate with a like-minded individual.
Yeah, we said it: like-minded.
The Hollywood playboy, who is more often seen in the company of model types, pop stars or A-list directors, departed from his party-boy rep and put on his environmental crusader hat. Upon arrival at the Vatican, the suit-clad star greeted the pope in Italian and kissed his ring, as is customary when meeting the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
During the private audience, the duo focused on how they could “work together to address the immediate need for major action to stop the devastating impacts of climate change from leaving permanent scars on our planet,” DiCaprio’s rep said. Together, the pair hoped to identify ways to inspire and motivate people worldwide to commit to upholding moral and ethical responsibilities to protect the Earth.
“The Revenant” star has worked for years to minimize climate change and the pope’s 2015 encyclical was praised by environmentalists for lamenting climate change, calling for a departure from coal and other fossil fuels and seeking out greener energy sources. Francis echoed those sentiments when addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September.
“As a child I didn’t quite understand what it all meant,” DiCaprio said, “but through my child’s eyes it represented a planet — the utopia that we’d been given, the overpopulation, excess. And in the third panel we see a blackened sky that represents so much to me of what’s going in in the environment today.”
After that, the actor gave a personal check to the spiritual leader with the directive that he use it for charity endeavors “close to your heart,” according to the Associated Press. Francis gave DiCaprio red leather-bound copies of “Laudato Si” and “The Joy of the Gospel” and asked the star to "pray for me, don’t forget.”
DiCaprio was accompanied by his father, George DiCaprio, and Milutin Gatsby, the global chair of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, AP said. The film star was raised Catholic but has no religious affiliations, according to the Catholic Herald, which said that he is not an atheist.
The actor hasn’t let Oscar campaigning get in the way of his passion projects. Earlier this month, the best-actor nominee addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he accepted the Crystal Award on behalf of his foundation.
“I am optimistic that our ability to convene the most significant and influential minds on the planet can result in the global transition necessary to protect both our society and our natural world,” he said. “The challenge before us requires each and every one of us to take action. We owe this to ourselves, but more importantly to the future generations who are counting on us.”
In July, DiCaprio’s namesake foundation donated $15 million in grants to a wide range of sustainability organizations.
Follow me on Twitter @NardineSaad.