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The pope has declared “there is nothing anti-Semitic” about Mel Gibson’s blockbuster film “The Passion of the Christ.”
Amid continued criticism of its depiction of Jews, Vatican spokesman Joaqu?n Navarro-Valls called the film on the final hours of Jesus’ life “a cinematographic transcription of the Gospels. If it were anti-Semitic, the Gospels would also be so.”
Navarro-Valls said Pope John Paul II would have criticized the film if it were bigoted against Jews.
The spokesman made his comments in reply to Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, who had asked the Vatican for a formal condemnation of the movie, which has grossed more than $200 million in the U.S. since its Feb. 25 release.
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said this will now settle the issue for most Catholics.
“Naturally, there will always be some, most especially dissident theologians, nuns and priests, who will reject the Vatican’s understanding of the film,” he said. “But then again they have a long track record of rejecting lots of things the Vatican says. It would be a mistake for the millions of Catholics who have embraced this movie to allow the dissidents to distract them from the beauty of the film.”
Donohue acknowledged, however, the Vatican’s judgment of the film may not sit well with some Jews.
“That would be unfortunate, because the last thing Catholics want is bad relations with Jews,” he said. “Those Jews who find the movie problematic should be treated with respect.”
Donohue said because of the history of mistreatment by many Christians, it is not surprising some Jews would be wary of a film about the death of Jesus. An honest dialogue between Catholics and Jews cannot proceed if Catholics pretend there isn’t honest disagreement about the movie, he emphasized.
“At the end of the day, however, disagreements between Catholics and Jews need not take on any greater significance than the ordinary family quarrel,” said Donohue. “It is up to the major players on both sides to see to it that our common friendship transcends any discord about this matter.”
Navarro-Valls was at the center of a controversy in January over whether the pope had given his personal approval of the film, stating, “It is as it was.”
Despite denials by the Vatican, Gibson insists he had written permission to publicize the pope’s comment.
Editor’s note: Coinciding with the release of Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ,” WorldNetDaily has issued one of the most extraordinary editions of its monthly Whistleblower magazine ever produced, titled “THE DAY JESUS DIED.”
Read WorldNetDaily’s extensive coverage of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”