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Steve Coogan and real-life Philomena meet the Pope

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Feb 05, 2014 | 2:49pm EST

Comedian Steve Coogan and the Irish woman who inspired his new movie Philomena met Pope Francis in Italy on Wednesday (05Feb14). The British star and Philomena Lee are in Rome to participate in a press conference on Thursday (06Feb14) as part of a campaign to urge Irish officials to release thousands of adoption files led by the Catholic Church. Coogan's film chronicles Lee's search for the son she was forced to give up for adoption in the 1950s. Then an unmarried mother, she was considered a "fallen woman" by religious leaders and sent to a convent. Speaking of her encounter with the Pope, Lee says, "I am honoured and delighted to have been in the presence of Pope Francis today... I have always put great faith in the church and the good will to put the wrongs of the past right. "I hope and believe that his Holiness Pope Francis joins me in the fight to help the thousands of mothers and children who need closure on their own stories." Lee and her daughter recently launched The Philomena Project to help reunite families separated by adoption. Coogan adapted BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith's book about Lee's struggle to find her son for Philomena, which is among the films nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Dame Judi Dench, who portrays Lee in the movie, is also up for Best Actress and Coogan is nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay prize.

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