The buzz around Leonardo DiCaprio is about his awards season wins – but following his Screen Actors Guild Awards victory on Saturday night, he talked about his recent meeting with Pope Francis and their mutual interest in slowing climate change.
The actor – who won for best performance by a male actor in a leading role for his turn in The Revenant – had a private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday morning, and a source told PEOPLE, “Leo explained that he wanted to discuss a subject they both have very much at heart: protecting the environment and climate change.”
Backstage, DiCaprio praised the pontiff’s stand on climate change.
“I think he wrote this encyclical, which is one of the most important things in the climate change history, so to speak. Basically, spreading the gospel that we should care about the planet we live in. It’s a sin to destroy our planet,” he said. “So he’s been inspiring and revolutionary to come out and be outspoken about the issue of climate change and endorse the scientific community.”
He added: “We are 99 percent a scientific community now saying that climate change exists and is caused by mankind. Anyone who doesn t believe, climate change just doesn t believe in science. So the fact that he s come out as this spiritual leader endorsing the scientific movement is unprecedented and was an incredible honor.”
On the red carpet, DiCaprio revealed to his meeting with Francis went well.
During the 15-minute meeting, DiCaprio presented the pontiff with a check from his environmental philanthropy foundation for the Pope to use for charity works, and gifted him with a book containing works by the painter Hieronymus Bosch. DiCaprio explained that as a baby, the triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights” hung over his crib, and had a profound impact on him when he was growing up.
In return, Pope Francis presented DiCaprio with a leather-bound version of his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si,’ along with two other items.
“Your Holiness, thank you for granting me this private audience with you,” DiCaprio said in Italian as he kissed the Pope’s ring before leaving, according to the Associated Press.
• Reporting by SCOTT HUVER