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Meet the Pope’s unlikely celebrity fans

The rich and famous are lavishing praise on the Pope. Here’s a guide to his most surprising supporters

By on Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Pope Francis (AP)

Pope Francis (AP)

The recent “selfie” snapped by celebrities at the Oscars sent the media into a frenzy of excitement at the eye-wateringly rich, famous and beautiful in front of a smartphone lens. Stars are rarely reputed for their love of humility and poverty. Yet how many of these Oscar celebs, when asked about the new Pope, would gush about how amazing he is, citing values of which there are a paucity in Hollywood? Had Pope Francis been passing at the time of the most famous moment in the history of selfies he might well have been mobbed by “Brangelina” and Meryl Streep begging him to join in. Rightly or wrongly, Francis is increasingly regarded by celebrities as one of them and this has fostered the admiration of some unlikely fans.

Italy Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe

Poor Russell Crowe. We remember him striding around the film set of Les Misérables in pursuit of Jean Valjean. With the same obsessive tenacity Crowe reportedly turned up to the Vatican twice this year desperate to find Pope Francis and speak to him about his latest film, Noah. “Look I’m not Catholic,” he protested on Good Morning America. “I’ve never felt any connection with any previous pope, but I like this guy!” Crowe’s quest was not in vain. On his third attempt he finally secured a few minutes with Francis and it seemed to live up to expectations: “He’s changing the tone of the way you regard the Pope,” said Crowe, “and I think it is a magnificent thing. I was very privileged and humbled to be in that environment.”

Pope Francis greets U.S. singer Patti Smith during weekly audience at Vatican
Patti Smith

When Patti Smith met Francis shortly after his election it was billed as the meeting of “the Punk and the Pope”. Smith, the rebel rocker chummy with the Russian activist group Pussy Riot, has journeyed to St Peter’s Square twice in order to see the Pontiff. On one occasion, the musician, famous for her album Horses, was pictured beaming and affectionately squeezing Francis’s hand. Rather than sleeping off the night’s gig, Patti was up bright and early for the general audience and concluded that the new Pope “was very interesting” and that she liked him “a lot”. Judging by the photographs it appears that the feeling is mutual, even though Francis may be unfamilar with songs such as “Gloria” and “Free Money”.

2014 Television Academy Hall of Fame

Rupert Murdoch

Does Pope Francis realise that he has turned every pair of eyes in Westminster green? Rupert Murdoch, the highly influential media tycoon, who was greeted with a pie in the face when he last visited Britain, has added his voice to the celebrity chorus of praise. The papal knight made time in his busy schedule last year to tweet some words of praise for the new Pope. “Pope Francis setting great example in humility
and thought provoking open thinking. Really refreshing,” he wrote. He then added further words of praise in February, when he tweeted: “Pope Francis appoints brilliant Cardinal Pell from Sydney to be no 3 power in Vatican. Australia will miss him but world will benefit.”

Photocall and Screening of 'Good' - London

Viggo Mortensen

If the Vatican spokesman ever calls in sick before a press briefing, Pope Francis should ask Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen to step in. For Mortensen gave an interview last year which was headlined “Lay off the Pope!” Their shared loved of the football team San Lorenzo sparked an instant connection and Mortensen provided an articulate rebuttal to claims that Pope Francis was complicit in Argentina’s “Dirty War”. He said: “People who knew him well – human rights activists, including the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1980, and also a woman judge who in 1973 was kicked out of the country – people who have … every reason to speak against him, have come out staunchly defending him.

Chris Rock live - London

Chris Rock

The American comedian who is best known for his satirical critique of America’s racial divide has lavished praise on Pope Francis. In an outpouring of adulation last September, Rock declared: “I might be crazy but I got this weird feeling that the new Pope might be the greatest man alive.” On this occasion, it seems that Rock wasn’t joking. He went on to reiterate his love of Pope Francis the following day when he compared Francis to a boxing legend. “This new Pope is like the Floyd Mayweather of popes,” he declared. More than 5,000 people “liked” Rock’s comparison between the austere Pontiff and the pound-for-pound boxing champion known for his taste in luxury goods.

Unite 4 Humanity Event - California

Jane Fonda

The actress and model-turned-activist epitomises the glamorous but angry figure who regards the Church as an oppressive force in the world. Fonda was the face of the anti-war movement during the 1960s, but also a pro-abortion activist. As patron of the Jane Fonda Center, she is dedicated to securing the “reproductive health” of teenagers. Nevertheless, Fonda was quick to declare her affection for Francis on Twitter. “Gotta love new Pope,” she wrote. “He cares about poor, hates dogma. Unlike US Congress. Cutting $40 bil from food stamps!! Uh Oh.”

Soccer - International Friendly - Scotland v Argentina - Hampden Park

Diego Maradona

The Argentine football legend, who snatched victory from England in 1986, has claimed that the same “hand of God,” intervened in last year’s papal conclave. In a letter to Rome’s II Messagero newspaper, following Cardinal Bergoglio’s election, Maradona wrote: “I am truly very happy and I am certain that my enthusiasm is shared by the whole Argentine people. Everybody in Argentina can remember ‘the hand of God’ in the England match in the 1986 World Cup. Now, in my country, the ‘hand of God’ has brought us an Argentine Pope.”

MTV's 'Restore the Shore' Fundraiser - New York

Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi

Not only is she a reality television personality, a dancer and a professional wrestler, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi is also a fan of Francis. Following the conclave, Snooki was quick to tell her 6.95 million followers: “Yay for Pope Bergoglio!! He’s adorable.” But will Snooki and other celebrate heed the advice of their idol? Francis recently said that “to depict the Pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me”. But Francis’s protestations that he isn’t superman are only likely to convince them even more that he is.


This article first appeared in the print edition of The Catholic Herald (6/6/14)

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