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The Passion of the Christ - Franciscan friars petition Gibson over Saint Francis of Assisi

Story by: Jack Foley

A GROUP of Franciscan friars, from New York, are so impressed with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, that they have petitioned the star to direct a film biography of the order’s founder, Saint Francis of Assisi.

Over 40,000 hits have been registered on the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal's ‘open letter and respectful petition’ to Gibson, while more than 8,000 readers have filled out the online petition at

The group, headed by Father Glenn Sudano, and consisting f 82 friars in the Big Apple’s metropolitan area, posted the petition after seeing The Passion.

They believe it would be a natural sequel, and feel it is high time that a realistic portrayal of Saint Francis is committed to film.

Commenting on perceptions of the saints, at present, Father Glenn said: "They dip these people in plaster. They are much more powerful, more interesting, more engaging, much more human."

The group believes that Gibson could do for saints, what his directorial skills did for the memory of Christ, given the world-wide success of The Passion of The Christ, which has grossed more than £200 million in North America, since its release on Ash Wednesday, and looks set to eclipse Titanic as the most successful film of all-time.

The open letter goes on to praise Gibson’s ‘extraordinary work of sacred art’ and asks him ‘to produce a sequel which would show the world what happens when a person totally and unequivocally responds to the Passion of the Christ!’

Father Glenn went on to accuse previous films of reducing Saint Francis, the patron saint of animals and the environment, to a caricature.

These include Franco Zeffirelli’s 1972 film, Brother Sun, Sister Moon’, which, he claimed, ‘neutered and reduced Saint Francis and made him into something of a hippie’, and Francesco, in 1989, which cast Mickey Rourke in the lead. Father Glenn merely dismissed that portrayal as ‘not even a near miss’.

Father Glenn is currently seeking an audience with an associate of Gibson, to discuss the project, but is also keeping his options open, especially since there has been no immediate comment from Gibson's representatives.

"My hope is that it raises the issue," Father Glenn he continued, with regard to getting a proper Saint Francis biopic in cinemas. "If Mr Gibson chooses not to do this, maybe there will be a Polish director or whatever - that's why we have the letter and petition in different languages. We just want someone to do it right."

The open letter can also be read in Italian, German and Polish.

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