ROME — Oscar-nominated actor Leonardo DiCaprio, long an environmental activist, met a like-minded ally Thursday: Pope Francis.
During the private, 15-minute meeting, DiCaprio gave the pope a book of paintings by 16th-century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch.
Pointing to one painting, a reproduction of Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights,” DiCaprio said it had hung over his bed as a child. The triptych, which DiCaprio has referred to in the past, depicts Adam and Eve in the first panel, a teeming landscape in the center panel, and finally a vision of hell.
“As a child I didn’t quite understand what it all meant,” he told Francis, “but through my child’s eyes it represented a planet, the utopia we had been given, the overpopulation, excesses, and the third panel we see a blackened sky that represents so much to me of what’s going in the environment.”
He added that “it represents to me the promise of the future and enlightenment and it is representational of your view here as well.”
DiCaprio also gave Francis a personal check for an undisclosed sum to be used for charitable works that are “close to your heart.”
This is the second such gesture from an American A-lister the pontiff has received in the past week; Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, also made a donation when he visited the Vatican last Friday.
The religious leader and the 41-year-old Oscar nominee, up for his performance in “The Revenant,” both have a history of environmental concern. Reflecting that commitment, Francis gave the actor a copy of his encyclical on the care of creation, Laudato Si’.
The pontiff also gave DiCaprio a rosary and asked him to pray for him. As he was leaving, Francis repeated his request, “Don’t forget, pray for me,” to which DiCaprio responded, “I won’t forget.”
Last Tuesday, the actor was at the World Economic Forum in Davos where he received a Crystal Award for his work on environmentalism.
He told the crowd of businesspeople and world leaders that the world “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.”
DiCaprio, who launched an eponymous foundation to fight global warming in 1998, announced in Davos that he was donating another $15 million to environmental projects.
Through an envoy, the pope also addressed the forum in Davos, calling on the gathering “to become a platform for the defense and protection of creation and for the achievement of a progress which is healthier, more human, more social, [and] more integral.”
“Those who have the means to enjoy a decent life, rather than being concerned with privileges, must seek to help those poorer than themselves to attain dignified living conditions, particularly through the development of their human, cultural, economic, and social potential,” he wrote.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.