Angelina Jolie was honored a few months ago by Queen Elizabeth for her humanitarian work as a United Nations Refugee Agency ambassador. Now, Pope Francis welcomed and commended the actress on her work after Angelina Jolie showed her recent film, Unbroken, to Vatican officials on Thursday.
The actress was invited to host a private screening of Unbroken, which she directed and does not act in, for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Afterwards, the 39-year-old superstar had a exclusive meet and greet with Pope Francis.
Universal Pictures released a statement from Jolie (also known as Mrs. Brad Pitt) about the visit. “Being invited with my film to the Vatican is an honor,” she said, adding that it is also “a great tribute to the story that I have told in Unbroken.” The picture is the second film the actress has directed (the first was In The Land of Blood and Honey, which was a love story set in the midst of the Bosnian War).
The biographical film, Unbroken, is based on the best-selling book by Laura Hillenbrand. The book’s subtitle A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption hints at the remarkable story of Louis Zamperini. An Italian immigrant to the U.S., Zamperini became a distance runner and competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Then, serving as a bombardier against Japanese forces during the war, his plane crashes in the Pacific and the surviving crew members are adrift on rafts. Louie and the pilot drift for two months before being captured by the Japanese and mistreated as prisoners of war.
Considering that Zamperini died last year in Los Angeles at age 97, it is not a spoiler to know he survived (the book’s title implies it), eventually married and raised a family. Furthermore, Jolie was joined at the screening for the Catholic Church officials by Zamperini’s son, Luke.
According to Vatican reports, the Pope discussed Zamperini’s faith with Jolie during their session. He also reportedly presented her with a rosary and she kissed his ring.
In the book and countless interviews, the WWII veteran credited his faith with helping him deal with the post-traumatic stress of his ordeal.While the film does not delve into its hero’s Christian faith, it does have Zamperini crediting God for saving his life.
Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez-Sorondo, who is Chancellor of Pontifical Academy of Sciences, acknowledged Jolie’s humanitarian work for the U.N. and commended the movie. “Unbroken made a big impression [on those at the Vatican screening],” he noted. “It is very significant and a very strong film.”
Jolie herself has spoken repeatedly of her awe of Zamperini. “I love this man [Louis] so much,” she has said in countless interviews. “I believed so much in his message … I was so driven to get it right,” she added.
First Queen Elizabeth made her a “dame,” then Pope Francis welcomed her to the Vatican; it remains to be seen if Angelina Jolie’s year is topped off with an honor from the big guy himself – Oscar. (Nominations will be announced on Jan. 15.)
By Dyanne Weiss