Pope Francis awarded medals to George Clooney, Salma Hayek and Richard Gere in recognition of their contributions to a Vatican education project.
The Hollywood stars were in Rome on Sunday at an event for the Scholas Occurentes (Schools Meet) global educational initiative that Pope Francis launched.
Scholas Occurentes works in 82 countries with 400,000 schools and other education institutions, aiming to bring together children from different cultures and religions.
Clooney, Hayek and Gere agreed to be ambassadors for one of the foundation’s arts projects.
The meeting in the Vatican Synod Hall involved testimonials, music, videos and a question and answer session.
In response to a question from a young person, Pope Francis said he has never considered following Benedict XVI into retirement.
“I never thought of quitting being pope, or of leaving because of the many responsibilities,” the Pope said.
Francis has previously said he envisioned a short papacy before going on “to the Father’s house,” but he has never specifically ruled out following in the Pope Emeritus’s footsteps. Benedict XVI retired in 2013, the first pope to step down in 600 years.
During Sunday’s meeting Pope Francis received the gift of an olive tree and autographed surfboards.
The meeting marks the launch of the a website that will allow members of the public to put questions to Pope Francis.