Pope Francis blesses actor playing Jesus in 'Ben-Hur' film

(Photo: Twitter/Christian Post)Rodrigo Santoro was blessed by Pope Francis on April 15, 2015 outside of the Vatican.

Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro received a blessing from Pope Francis on Wednesday while attending the papal audience with fellow actress Nazanin Boniadi.

Santoro and Boniadi are in Italy filming the remake of 'Ben-Hur', and Santoro plays Jesus in the iconic film.

A photo captured by the production company shows Pope Francis with his hand extended towards Santoro's face, which is largely obscured by his long, dark hair and full beard.

The film is based on the book 'Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ', written by Lew Wallace and published in 1880. The best-selling novel told the story of a fictional Jewish prince, Judah Ben-Hur, who is enslaved by the Romans and eventually becomes a Christian. A parallel storyline is the birth and life of Christ, whose life intersects with Ben-Hur's throughout the book.

There have been several film adaptations, including animated and silent versions. There was also a television miniseries adaptation in 2010.

The most famous 'Ben-Hur' film was released in 1959, and starred Charlton Heston in the title role. Claude Heater was uncredited in the role of Jesus – a minor role in the blockbuster film.

According to Deadline, the newest installation of the film will be more faithful to the book, and feature Jesus more prominently. 'Ben-Hur' producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett are also the team behind the religious hits 'The Bible', 'Son of God', 'A.D.: The Bible Continues', and other Christian television and film projects.

'Ben-Hur' is expected to be released on February 26, 2016, and also stars Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman, 'Gossip Girl' actress Sophia Black-D'Elia, and 'American Hustle' actor Jack Huston. Timur Bekmambetov is directing the big budget film.

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