From Providence (originally LA Times)-
At a 1988 dinner following the premiere of Martin Scorsese's controversial testament of faith, "The Last Temptation of Christ," Paul Moore, then the Episcopal bishop of New York, told Scorsese about a book he should read. Within a day or two, Moore sent the filmmaker a copy of "Silence," Shusaku Endo's novel about two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan in 1639 to find their mentor, a man rumored to have renounced his beliefs under torture.
When Scorsese began reading the novel a year later, he found he couldn't shake the story of its conflicted main character, Father Sebastiao Rodrigues, a man working through his own pride and doubts in his quest to serve his God. Scorsese came close to making "Silence" several times in the intervening decades. Now that he has, he views the finished film as a "stripping away of everything extraneous to get to the essence, the spiritual."