By Elise Harris
On Thursday Pope Francis met briefly with actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio, who recently won an award for his efforts for environmental protection at the World Economic Forum.
The meeting between the two lasted just 15 minutes, but was enough time for DiCaprio to hand the Pope a book of art from Dutch Renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch, according to Vatican Radio.
Francis’ gift to the actor was likely a copy of his encyclical “Laudato Si” and a medal – lately he’s been giving one to presidents and heads of state who have come to the Vatican that bears the image of St. Martin cutting his cloak in two for a poor man.
In some of the pictures of the encounter, DiCaprio can be seen holding the small box usually containing papal medals, as well as two red books.
What the two discussed is unknown, however it’s likely that issues surrounding the environment formed the bulk of the dialogue.
DiCaprio – who is a candidate for Best Actor at the Feb. 28 Oscar Awards ceremony for his lead role in the drama “The Revenant” – describes himself on twitter as an “actor and environmentalist.”
He recently participated in the World Economic Forum where he received their Crystal Award for his leading role in fighting climate change.
In his speech for the event, DiCaprio said that “we simply cannot afford to allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil and gas industries to determine the future of humanity.”
“Those entities with a financial interest in preserving this destructive system have denied, and even covered up the evidence of our changing climate… Enough is enough. You know better. The world knows better. History will place the blame for this devastation squarely at their feet.”
According to the actor, “our planet cannot be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong.” He said that with today’s technologies, we have the means to end our “addiction” to them.
DiCaprio also announced that his foundation, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, will be donating $15 million to support environmental protection projects.
Pope Francis himself sent a message to the forum participants, in which he said that while advanced technologies are good, they should promote environmental protection and shouldn’t replace the jobs currently held by people.
Global dependence on coal and fossil fuels is something Francis also condemned in his encyclical “Laudato Si,” published June 18, 2015.
As usual, the Pope did not shy away from controversial issues in the document, making bold statements on global warming, pollution, species extinction and global inequality’s impact on natural resources.
He cited studies supporting the theory of global warming and stated that human activity is the primary driving force behind the phenomenon, as well as the main cause of species extinction. He also spoke of developed nations’ obligations involving renewable resources and the development of poorer countries.
In addition to defending life from conception to natural death, Francis also issued a condemnation of gender ideology and advocated for a limited use of non-renewable resources.
While the two men might not have much in common apart of DiCaprio’s Catholic roots – he was raised Catholic, but currently has no specific religion – their mutual interest in safeguarding the environment is enough to bring them together for the brief encounter.