The United States: Against Mel Gibson, Abraham Foxman brandishes "Nostra Aetate"

Source: FSSPX News


Vatican has to sensitize the various Catholic Episcopal conferences so they can communicate the position of the Catholic Church condemning anti-Semitism, he declared in the Italian daily La Repubblica of February 19.

To begin again to speak of "deicide" would mean making a gigantic step backward, it would reverse 40 years of progress, explained the American Jew to Mgr John Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, one of his interlocutors in the Vatican. – Mgr Foley had judged Mel Gibson’s film favorably when leaving a private viewing.

In support of his assertion, Abraham Foxman quoted as an example the American Episcopal Conference which released in all the parishes of the United States, the day before Ash Wednesday, a series of documents concerning Catholic teaching on the Jews, the death of Jesus and the "sin of anti-Semitism". – Entitled The Bible, the Jews and the death of Jesus, this publication of 110 pages is a collection of texts including the most important declarations of the Church on the Jews and anti-Semitism, notably the Conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate, the stands taken by Pope John-Paul II, and the documents on the traditional Passion Plays.

For Abraham Foxman, Mel Gibson’s film is "of a traditionalist inspiration, in contrast with the teaching of the Church". In the film, the Jews are represented in a negative way in contrast to the Romans" he insisted. Worrying about its influence on moviegoers, particularly on children, he expressed his doubts concerning its reception in Poland.

Speaking in Rome, on February 20th, in front of a small group of journalists, on the occasion of the ad limina visits of the French bishops of the province of Paris, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger said he was "extremely reserved on the dramatization of the passion", even more "by electronic means". For him, "the passion of Christ is no spectacle at which on looks, it is an act of divine power. And as such, the representation can be an absolute regression". "This type of film, he added further, touches the sensibility and the imagination, but can be very ambiguous". The French cardinal clarified that he had not seen the film in preview.

The next week, since he was in New York together with eight other French bishops, at the invitation of rabbi Israel Singer, director of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), Cardinal Lustiger again expressed his solidarity with Judaism. The Archbishop of Paris and the directors of the WJC published a common statement on the occasion of the release in the United States and in Canada of Mel Gibson’s film: "we shall not leave the controversy surrounding the film The Passion of the Christ strike a blow at the respectful religious relations between Catholics and Jews." "During the last half of the XXth century, Catholic and Jews have worked and managed to build respectful religious relations… Our faith, our respect and our mutual understanding are stronger than any storm", underlined Mgr Lustiger and the rabbi Singer.

-March 1st, the French public learned that it could see The Passion of the Christ from April 4th, thanks to the Tunisian producer Tarak Ben Ammar, the international businessman, adviser of Silvio Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch, and "long-time friend of Mel Gibson". By announcing his decision to distribute The Passion on the French screens, he declared to the Figaro: "when I saw this film, two weeks ago, I was upset because it shows us what Christ really went through in his last moments. It is a powerful film and is absolutely not anti-Semitic. As everyone who goes to see it will understand". And to clarify: "as soon as the film comes out in France, people will better understand, apart from any excessive passion, the power and the value of this film."

It is not unlikely that the amount of receipts recorded in the United States, in its first five days of release, helped this distributor to make a decision: 117,5 million dollars. Mel Gibson personally financed this film, between 25 and 30 million dollars.

In Germany and in Austria, the moviegoers can see The Passion of the Christ starting March 18th. Indeed, the distribution of the film was moved up three weeks because of its success across the Atlantic.