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Jewish leaders in Germany concerned about The Passion of The Christ



Story by: Jack Foley

JEWISH leaders and church officials, in Germany, are the latest to join the commotion surrounding Mel Gibson’s 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
public demand.

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 anti-Semitism’.

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 was ‘intolerable’.

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
anti-Semites.

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 anti-Semitic.

"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.

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