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Vatican sermon comments on The Passion of The Christ as box office swells



Story by: Jack Foley

THE Vatican has continued to comment on Mel Gibson’s 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 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.

The comments, while non-committal either way, have been seized upon by the movie’s 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 Christ’s 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 Depp’s latest, Secret Window, which opened with a respectable $19 million haul.

The success of Gibson’s 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.

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