Steve Coogan and the eponymous subject of his film Philomena took in a very fancy Oscar campaign stop: the two have had an audience with Pope Francis. The Guardian's Catherine Shoard reported that Coogan, who stars in the film that he co-wrote, and Philomena Lee attended mass in St. Peter's Square and then had an audience with the Pope. Per Shoard, the film is set to screen in the Vatican this afternoon.
The audience with the Pope was fascinating for a couple reasons. For one, the film—which tells the story of Lee's search for her son who was sold into adoption by the nuns of the convent where she was sent as a pregnant teen— has been deemed "anti-Catholic" by some of its critics. The New York Post's Kyle Smith called it a "hateful and boring attack on Catholics," prompting a response from Lee herself. Taking issue with how one nun was portrayed, Deacon Nick Donnelly of Protect the Pope wrote: "Clearly Coogan made the decision that showing Sr. Hildegard helping mothers find their children would not sell his film, but catering to the liberal anti-Catholic prejudice would appeal to his audience."
But the Pope—who has garnered attention for at least seeming progressive—was willing to meet with Coogan and Lee, who were representing The Philomena Project, which seeks to call on the Irish government "to implement this adoption information and tracing legislation." Lee herself said, following the meeting: "I am honoured and delighted to have been in the presence of Pope Francis today. As the film portrays, I have always put great faith in the Church and the good will 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."