Italy: Press campaign against Mel Gibson’s The Passion

Source: FSSPX News


“What induced Gibson to spend $25 million, to finance and defend a film on the last hours of Jesus, recounting them with the sensitivity of a heavyweight boxer, resolved on destroying his opponent’s face in the boxing ring of religions?” asks La Reppublica.

La Croix comments: “In Italy, as in the United Sates, all those who have seen it have been struck by the violence of the film (the brutality of Braveheart, Mel Gibson’s first film, left its mark on the public in the same way). But it is above all, the accusation of anti-Semitism to which he must respond. The hostility of Jewish organizations towards the film has already been well known for several months now. They have obtained, according to the New York Times of February 4, the withdrawal of the words uttered by the crowd in Jerusalem to Pilate: “His blood be upon us and upon our children” (Matthew 27: 25); but it seems they have not succeeded in getting a post script to appear at the end of the film, asking the public not to regard this work as a source of hatred. In the face of this controversy, the Catholic Church in America is taking advantage of the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the decree Nostra Aetate of Vatican II, in order to recall its commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism”.

The so-called objectivity of this daily paper, which calls itself Christian, forbids it to quote contrary opinions. But these are not lacking! For example, the interview in Il Giornale of February 17, where Mgr. Augustin Di Noia, under-secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger’s right arm for America, declares that The Passion is a faithful transposition of the Gospel narrative.

Likewise the remarkable article by Vittorio Messori in the Corriere della Sera, also from February 17, where we learn that the film will be premiered in 2000 American cinemas, and in 500 English and Australian cinemas, and that according to professional punters, it should recover the $30 (and not 25) million cost of production within the first week.

The Italians will be able to see it from April 7, during Holy Week. For France, the month of June is mentioned … if indeed it is allowed to go out here, for – according to La Croix – “the distribution branch of Europa Corp, a firm founded by Luc Besson, had been amongst those seeking the rights to the film, but it announced yesterday (Tuesday February 17) that it had given up on this, with no other distributor having declared its intentions for the moment. ‘Given the polemic surrounding this film, the milieu is not too enthusiastic’, commented a source at Europa Corp”.

Besides the dossier in the January-February issue of Fideliter and the article by Michèle Reboul in Monde et Vie from January 29, there is also the interview with Daniel Hamiche in Pacte from January 31, where the founder of the “Pro Passio” association offers these enlightening remarks: “The criticisms in the US come most frequently from three sectors: in Los Angeles, on the West Coast, the Simon Wisenthal Center, especially in the person of Rabbi Marvin Heir, has taken upon itself the task of hunting down Nazis. Today they are specializing in attacks against Gibson’s film… Over on the East Coast, in New York, the Antidefamation League of B’nai B’rith has solemnly warned against distribution of the film. (…) To these two well known organisations, we must add an active element of the United States Bishops Conference, the commission which, under the authority of Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, deals with ecumenism in general, and with relations with Judaism in particular. A particularly virulent member of this commission is Dr. Fisher, a layman, and secretary of the office. The opinions of this apparatchik are well known. They explain in part the reticence of the good man with regard to the film: according to him, the first covenant (with Israel) is still valid. The Church therefore has no mission to the Jews, but there is a mission of Catholics with the Jews to the world… The film The Passion is without doubt not integrated into this scheme of things…” (Pacte [French language], annual subscription 23 euros, payable to Certitudes, 23 rue des Bernardins, 75005 Paris, France)

The fact remains that the pre-sale of tickets indicates “not a success, not a triumph, but a veritable storm”, according to the independent distribution society New Market, charged with assuring the smooth running of the film, while all the big name distributors – Paramount, Universal, Miramax – influenced by the denigration campaign, have withdrawn.