Russell Crowe, 'Noah' Team Briefly Meet Pope Francis

5:03 AM PST 03/19/2014 by Eric J. Lyman

The star lobbied hard for a private meeting with the pontiff, but had to settle for a quick blessing at the Vatican's public general audience.

VATICAN CITY – Russell Crowe's on-again, off-again meeting with Pope Francis took place -- sort of.

Crowe and the team behind the film Noah were at Francis' weekly audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Square and local observers say they briefly met the pontiff.

The meeting was confirmed by both Paramount Studios and Universal Studios Italy (which will release Noah April 10) a day after Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said no meeting had been scheduled. Conflicting reports about an encounter had circulated in recent days.

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Paramount said the delegation included Crowe, director Darren Aronofsky, producer Scott Franklin and studio vice chairman Rob Moore.

Said Aronofsky: "Pope Francis' comments on stewardship and our responsibility to the natural world are inspirational and of the utmost importance. When the opportunity [arose] to hear him speak in person on the anniversary of his first year in office I couldn't miss the chance to listen and learn."

Crowe also tweeted about the event:

The papal general audience takes place every Wednesday and is open to the public. In good weather, it can draw tens of thousands of tourists and faithful Catholics.

Using social media, Crowe had lobbied hard for a private audience with Francis, and had hoped to secure the pontiff's endorsement for Noah. The film has taken heat from religious groups that say its story takes too many liberties with the biblical account of the flood.

STORY: 'Noah' Banned in Several Middle Eastern Countries

A papal endorsement remains unlikely -- Lombardi said earlier this month the pope does not watch films -- though the audience with the pope is likely to draw new attention to the film, which will go into release worldwide starting March 28.

Tatiana Siegel contributed to this report.

Twitter: @EricJLyman

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