Story by: Jack Foley
THE Vatican has continued to comment on Mel Gibsons The
Passion of the Christ, which has now been credited with reinvigorating
US cinema business.
A sermon, by 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 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,"
The comments, while non-committal either way, have been seized
upon by the movies critics as a veiled criticism of its
content, although the more discerning may seek to disagree.
Certainly, the continuing controversy had merely served to bolster
its standing at the US Box Office, where it continues to hold
the number one spot, after three weeks.
The film, which chronicles the last 12 hours of Christs
life in gory detail, took a further $31.6m (£17.4m) over
the weekend of March 12-14, according to estimates, taking its
total to date to more than $264m (£146m) - just short of
the returns enjoyed by Oscar-winning epic, The
Return of the King, at the same stage in its box office run.
That means it has beaten off stiff competition from the likes
of Starsky and Hutch and
Johnny Depps latest, Secret Window, which opened with a
respectable $19 million haul.
The success of Gibsons movie has meant that box office
figures are up by 15% up on last year's, despite being down before
the release of the film.
Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker, Exhibitor
Relations, commented: "The Passion has single-handedly made
what was turning out to be a pretty lousy year into a really good
year so far."
The film will open in Italy, on April 7, during Holy Week, and
in the UK on March 26.