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Mark Rylance to play Pope Pius IX in new Spielberg film

Mark Rylance arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills in February (AP)

Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance is to play the part of Pope Pius IX in a new film produced by Steven Spielberg.

The film tells the story of a Jewish boy in Italy in 1858 who is taken from his parents, raised Catholic and then becomes a priest.

The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara is expected to go into production at the start of 2017 and the filming will begin this summer.

Tony Kushner, scriptwriter of the award-winning film Lincoln, will write the screenplay.

The film is based on a true story which became an international scandal and led to intense criticism of the Church and the papacy.

Mortara was taken from his family home in Bologna because a servant in his household said she had baptised him when he was seriously ill.

He grew up as a Catholic under the protection of Pope Pius IX, who reportedly refused to return him to his parents despite their protestations.

Mortara subsequently became a priest in the Augustinian order.

Rylance won Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies.