Story by: Jack Foley
WITH less than a week to go before its US release, The Passion
of the Christ has been labelled as being based on Mels
gospel rather than Romes gospel, by one of the worlds
most prominent Jewish leaders.
In an interview with Reuters Television, Abraham Foxman, the
US director of the Anti-Defamation League, an independent Jewish
pressure group, criticised the film for portraying Jews as blood-thirsty
And he reiterated concerns that the film could inflame anti-Semitism
and set back Jewish-Catholic dialogue, by noting that the film
is not only based on gospel accounts, but also on the visions
of a 19th Century mystical nun.
He went on to challenge director, Mel Gibson, to add a post-script
to the film, informing audiences that it should not be seen as
Foxman refrained from criticising the film too harshly, however,
stating that Gibson was entitled, as an artist, to make it, but
he did chastise the star for promoting it as the gospel
The comments, made in Rome, follow first reviews of the film,
which has been labelled as extremely violent and harrowing viewing.
The first UK notice, in The
Daily Telegraph, went as far as to say that it could court the
attention of the anti-violence brigade.
And they are sure to heighten interest still further, ahead of
the US release, on Ash Wednesday, and the UK release, on March
Foxman, who has spoken with several Vatican officials in the
build-up to the film, has also urged them to instruct bishops
around the world to issue statements informing their followers
that the film is purely an artistic work and not the definitive
version of events.
"That would be an important message to vaccinate against
what I believe may be the result of this film. This film shows
the Jews as bloodthirsty throughout, vengeful, angry and the Romans
(as people) who really don't want to do it (kill Christ),"
And he claims the film, which depicts the last 12 hours of Christs
life, betrays a landmark Second Vatican Council statement, made
in 1965, which repudiated the concept of collective Jewish guilt
for his death.
"I would hope that the Vatican and the Catholic Church would
stand up to defend its teachings
," he added. "If
the Church reminds those viewers of its interpretation of history,
its interpretation of the Gospel, its understanding of Biblical
history...it will act in a large measure to inoculate against
the possibility of anti-Semitism."
Gibson, however, has continued to maintain that his film is in
no way anti-Semitic and has repeatedly defended
it against many of the criticisms - even though he admitted to
being surprised at the level of intensity the debate has reached.