Sarandon, who won an Academy Award for her role in the 1995 anti-death penalty film "Dead Man Walking,” said she had sent a copy of the book on which the movie is based to the Pope.
"The last one. Not this Nazi one we have now," she reportedly told Newsday, referring to the German-born pontiff. She later repeated her remark at the Ciroc vodka-sponsored panel.
A source tells Fox411.com that the crowd "didn't seem bothered" by Sarandon's words, and the discussion ended with the majority of the crowd praising her for everything from her work with UNICEF to her staunch support of Occupy Wall Street.
However, the Catholic League of America was quick to slam Sarandon for her "obscene" words.
“Susan Sarandon’s ignorance is willful: those who have hatred in their veins are not interested in the truth. The fact is that Joseph Ratzinger (the Pope) was conscripted at the age of 14 into the Hitler Youth, along with every other young German boy. Unlike most of the other teenagers, Ratzinger refused to go to meetings, bringing economic hardship to his family. Moreover, unlike most of the others, he deserted at the first opportunity,” the league’s President William Donohue said in a statement. “Sarandon’s comment is obscene. Sadly, it’s what we’ve come to expect from her.”
Political commentator and film critic Michael Medved was also dismayed by the Nazi accusation.
"Could Susan Sarandon be following a classic rule of public relations: When the world is increasingly ignoring you, try attacking the Pope? Why should anyone care what a fading Hollywood actress has to say about one of the most influential thinkers and religious leaders in the world?" Medved told Fox411.com. "Her denigration of Pope Benedict is particularly regrettable in light of this German pope's moving and eloquent efforts to come to terms the horrors of the Holocaust."
Sarandon also drew strong criticism from the Jewish community.
"Ms. Sarandon may have her differences with the Catholic Church, but that is no excuse for throwing around Nazi analogies. Such words are hateful, vindictive and only serve to diminish the true history and meaning of the Holocaust," The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which fights anti-Semitism, said in a statement while also calling on Sarandon to issue an apology to the Catholic community.
Sarandon’s Hollywood agent did not respond to a request for comment.
However, entertainment and political publicist, Angie Meyer, said the veteran actress's reputation is likely to suffer – at least temporarily – as a result of her controversial opinion.
"Sarandon's now positioned herself in an unwise position by insulting a large religious sector, who might otherwise pay to watch her movies," Meyer said ."Her outlandish words come as a huge liability to movie producers, and film financiers. There will be push back - she's stuck her foot too far down to fully recover, at least for the short term."
But in the long term, the outspoken actress's image could remain unchanged by her Nazi comment.
"Susan Sarandon has a reputation of saying things that are controversial. This statement is certainly right up there. But given her history I doubt it will harm her career," public relations expert Glenn Selig added. "While inflammatory and insulting to many, particularly Catholics, people know her as someone who speaks her mind. Being opinionated is part of what the public seems to like about her or choose to accept about her, even if they don't agree with her."
Deidre Behar contributed to this report.
Hollie McKay has a been a Fox News Digital staff reporter since 2007. She has extensively reported from war zones including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Burma and investigates global conflicts, war crimes and terrorism around the world. Follow her on twitter and Instagram @holliesmckay