Story by: Jack Foley
JEWISH leaders and church officials, in Germany, are the latest
to join the commotion surrounding Mel Gibsons The Passion
of the Christ, warning that it may stir up anti-Semitism when
it opens on Thursday, March 18.
The film is due to be shown in 400 cinemas and has opened ahead
of schedule, by three weeks, due to
But Salomon Korn, vice-president of the Central Council of Jews
in Germany, warned that the content of the film is such that the
anti-Semites will only have their views on Jews confirmed.
And he was backed by German Protestant leader, Wolfgang Huber,
who claimed the film did not put
Christ's suffering into proper perspective.
The release of the film is a particularly sensitive issue in
Germany, where the Holocaust was planned, because of the numerous
charges of anti-Semitism that have been levelled against it from
critics in America.
And while the claims do not stand up to scrutiny for anyone who
has seen the film, German Catholic leaders view it as highly problematic,
with the German Bishops' Conference stating that they would urgently
warn against using the suffering of Jesus as an instrument for
Salomon Korn went on to describe the film as a sado-masochist
orgy of violence, which is laden with
kitsch, while Wolfgang Huber said the film's violence
And a leading German essayist, Henryk M Broder, wrote in Der
Spiegel magazine that those who can't stand Jews will find
confirmation in the film.
"Amazingly, Jews will once again be held responsible for
a murder that happened almost 2,000 years ago," he opined.
"While other people don't want to hear anything any more
about the murder of millions just 60
years after it happened."
Mr Broder added that The Passion of the Christ was unlikely to
convert people who did not hate Jews into
However, in a Vatican sermon, earlier this month, Father Raniero
Cantalamessa said that if the film
spread the belief that all Jews were responsible for Christ's
death, it should be criticised, but maintained that if it
restricts itself to showing an influential group of Jews
were to blame, then it could not.
The comments were made as part of a Lent sermon and go some way
to addressing claims, by Jewish critics of the film, that it is
"The Jewish people, as such, are not responsible for the
death of Christ," explained Father Cantalamessa.
"The Passion is a film to be criticised if it seeks to advance
the belief that all Jews at the time and in succeeding generations
are responsible for the death of Christ.
"But it cannot be accused of betraying the real story if
it restricts itself to showing an influential group
of Jews at the time playing a determining role in the death of
Jesus Christ," he concluded.
Gibson, too, has repeatedly dismissed claims that the film is
in any way anti-Semitic, going so far as to say that he has been
persecuted as a result of the movie.
But The Passion of the Christ continues to attract strong opinions
and huge box office, having earned
more than $270m (£150m) since its Ash Wednesday release
in the US.