Madrid, Spain, Feb 18, 2004 (CNA) - In an article written for the Spanish newspaper “La Razón,” the renowned Italian journalist Vittorio Messori recounts his experience seeing “The Passion of the Christ,” saying the movie is greatest film about Jesus Christ ever produced because of its “radical catholicity” and the providential signs that marked its filming.
“What Gibson was attempting with ‘The Passion’ he has achieved: it hits you”, is the title of the article by Messori, who attended a private screening of the final version of film at the invitation of Mel Gibson and Icon Producer Steve McEveety, together with a several other prominent Europeans.
According to Messori, there was complete silence in the theater even after the credits finished rolling and the lights were turned on. “Two women are quietly weeping; the bishop at my side is pale white, with his eyes closed; his young secretary nervously prays the rosary; the beginnings of a timid and mild applause quickly fade in embarrassment. For several long moments nobody gets up, nobody moves, nobody speaks,” he adds. Messori says that “what we were told is true: ‘The Passion of the Christ’ hits you. The effect on us was just as Gibson intended.”
Messori said the experience was disconcerting after years of believing he “knew everything” about the Passion. He discovered that he only “thought he knew it all,” because “everything changes when the account is rendered into images that transform it into flesh and blood, into evident acts of love and of hatred.”
Providence and Perfection
Messori underscores the providential signs that occurred during filming: “conversions, the overcoming of drug addictions, reconciliation between enemies, the ending of adulterous relationships, appearances of mysteries individuals, explosions of extraordinary energy, extras who fell to their knees when Caviezel’s extraordinary Jesus passed by, even lighting strikes, one of which hit the cross but hurt no one. And after, coincidences that also were interpreted as signs: the Virgin Mary was played by a Jewish actress whose last name, Morgenstern, it was later learned, means “Morning Star” in German, as is recited in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Moreover, Messori says that for Gibson, the movie “is a Mass: do it, therefore, in a dead language, as it has been done for centuries. If the mind does not understand, better. What matters is that the heart understands that everything that happened was for our redemption from sin and opened for us the doors of salvation, as we read in the prophet Isaiah, which is a presented during the film’s prologue.”
Production-wise, adds Messori, “the film is of the highest quality. The works of Pasolini, Rossellini, and Zeffirelli seem poor and archaic by comparison. Gibson’s work has keen insight, majestic photography, extraordinary costumes, desolate, and when necessary, majestic sets, incredibly effective makeup, and a professional crew, guided by a director who is also a distinguished colleague.”
Messori explains that the film presents “the faith in its most Catholic form—with the approval of the Pope and so many Cardinals, including Ratzinger—full of symbolism, which only the trained eye can fully discern.”
For Messori, “the radical ‘Catholicity’ of the film stems from the total rejection of any fictionalizing, from taking the Gospels as true history: the events, we are told, took place just as the Scriptures describe them. Its Catholicism is expressed in the recognition of the divinity of Jesus in complete union with his humanity.” And this “radical Catholicity,” he says, is also seen in the “Eucharistic aspect,’ reaffirmed in its materiality: the blood of the Passion is forever united to the wine of the Mass, and the martyred flesh to the consecrated bread. It is also seen in the strong Marian tone: the Mother and the devil are always present, the one with her silent suffering, the other with his evil satisfaction.”
Messori also reveals that “if we need two hours on the sacrifice, we only need two minutes to remember that that was not the last word: from Good Friday we go to the Resurrection, which Gibson has portrayed by drawing from the words of St. John, which I also suggested. The shroud is ‘emptied,’ leaving behind a sufficient sign to ‘see and believe’ that the one condemned has triumphed over death.”
Messori concludes his article with the question, “Anti-semitism or Anti-Judaism? We should not fool around with such serious words. Having seen the film, I believe the American Jews who have admonished their fellow Jews to see the film before condemning it are right.”
“It should be clear that what weighs upon Christ and reduces him to that state is not the fault of this person or that person, but rather the sins of all mankind, without exception,” he adds. “Isn’t the John who takes Mary into his care a Jew? Are not the devout Veronica, the impetuous Simon of Cyrene, the women of Jerusalem who weep with desperation, and Peter, who after forgiven, would die for the Master, all Jews?”
“This work, says Gibson, made bitter by those who aggressively sought to stop it, intends to propose anew the message of a God who is Love. And what kind of Love would this be if it excluded someone?”, concludes Messori.
Vatican City, Feb 18, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II called on the world this morning to summarize all things in Christ in order to fulfill God’s plan for humanity.
During this Wednesday’s general audience, which took place in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope spoke about the canticle, “God the Savior,” which opens the Letter to the Ephesians and is recited on Mondays in the Liturgy of the Hours.
John Paul II said, “In his infinite goodness God planned before the creation of the world to bring all things into one through his beloved Son.”
“The supremacy of Christ extends, therefore, to the world as well as to that more specific horizon which is the Church. Christ fulfills the function of ‘fullness’,” he added.
The Holy Father also quoted Ephesians 1:9 and said that “for He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to his purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
The Pope explained that this canticle exalts “the marvelous work of God, carried out for us through Christ” and emphasizes “the exaltation of the ‘redemption through the blood’ of the cross, the ‘forgiveness of sins,’ the abundant effusion ‘of the riches of His grace’.”
It also highlights the divine sonship of every Christian and “the ‘knowledge of the mystery of God’s will’ through which one enters into the intimacy of the same trinitarian life,” he said.
Vatican City, Feb 18, 2004 (CNA) - In a meeting at the Vatican Feb. 16, U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley told Anti-Defamation League president Abraham Foxman the he saw no anti-Semitism in “The Passion of the Christ.”
"I would hope people would accept the film as a meditation on our own culpability for Christ's suffering," the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications told the Catholic News Service.
The archbishop told CNS that he hoped people would be aware of the Church’s strong teaching that anti-Semitism is a sin and that not all the Jews of Christ's time, nor in all of history, can be blamed for his death. A week before the film’s theatrical release, Foxman was in Rome to urge the Vatican to release a statement, indicating that the film does not reflect Catholic belief and teachings about the role of the Jewish people in Christ’s death.
The film is “contrary to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and Church guidelines on the presentation of the Passion," Foxman told CNS.
Foxman told CNS that the ADL was urging bishops' conferences around the world to repeat the council's teaching and to point out that the film is actually Gibson's version of the Gospel, “not the Gospel version."
"If the Church reminds those viewers of its interpretation of history, its interpretation of the Gospel, its understanding of Biblical history ... it will act in a large measure to inoculate against the possibility of anti-Semitism," Foxman told Reuters.
According to Reuters, Foxman also challenged Gibson to appear in an on-screen post-script to the film and tell audiences it should not be seen as anti-Jewish. There is no word yet if Gibson has considered to do this.
"The Passion of the Christ" will hit screens next Wednesday.
Vatican City, Feb 18, 2004 (CNA) - In a message to a group of bishops and collaborators of the Focolare movement, who are meeting in Rome, Pope John Paul II stressed that only holiness can guarantee the fulfillment of the Christian mission to evangelize.
“In fact, only a Christian community shining with holiness can efficaciously fulfill the mission entrusted to it by Christ, that is, to spread the Gospel to the far ends of the earth,” the Pope stressed.
During today’s general audience, in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 9,000 faithful, the Holy Father greeted the bishops and presented them his message for their annual meeting. The foundress of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich, was also present at today’s audience.
Noting that their encounter is centered on the theme of holiness, the Pope told the bishops that “Vatican Council II reminded us that holiness is the vocation of every baptized person”. “The universal character of the Church’s vocation to holiness,” he went on, “is a truth that represents one of the pillars of the conciliar constitution ‘Lumen Gentium’.”
According to the Holy Father, “two general aspects should be underlined here. Above all, the fact that the Church is intimately holy and is called to live and to manifest that holiness in every one of its members.” “In the second place, the expression ‘holiness of people’, makes us think of ordinariness, that is, of the need for the baptized to know how to live the Gospel coherently in every day life: in the family, in one’s work, in every relation and occupation. It is precisely in the ordinary that one must live the extraordinary,” he concluded.
Kansas City, Mo., Feb 18, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic institutions should no longer invite speakers, who support abortion rights, to "address, give workshops, or otherwise make any presentation" at Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, said Archbishop James P. Keleher.
The archbishop made this statement in the archdiocesan newspaper, The Leaven, Feb. 13. The day before, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic who supports abortion rights, spoke at the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth.
The governor was invited to speak about education and economic development as part of the Catholic school's Lincoln Lectureship series.
Strangely, only hours before, the governor and the archbishop appeared together at a news conference to rally support for affordable housing, reported the Associated Press.
However, in a statement published the next day, the archbishop said abortion is such an important issue that "it is imperative that our Catholic churches, schools and institutions make every effort not only to support the pro-life movement, but especially to ensure that the public understand our unequivocal stand on this issue.
"We must stand solidly behind the Gospel of Life," the statement said.
Tallahassee, Fla., Feb 18, 2004 (CNA) - Parents in Florida may soon have the legal right to be informed if their teenage daughters seek an abortion, reported the Associated Press yesterday.
A House panel approved a ballot measure Feb. 16 to that effect.
The vote is a preliminary step toward putting a "parental rights" provision in the Florida Constitution.
House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, called for the amendment last summer after the Florida Supreme Court struck down a law that required medical professionals to notify parents before their minor daughters get abortions.
If the amendment passes the House and the Senate, it will go before voters in November.
Montreal, Canada, Feb 18, 2004 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Montreal has backed down from implementing a policy that would screen seminary candidates for HIV, after consulting with canon and civil lawyers.
At a press conference one month earlier, Jan. 12, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte said the criteria for admission to the Grand Seminary of Montreal were revised and it was thought that, given the realities of the modern world, candidates should be screened for HIV. He defended the policy to reporters, which would have taken effect this fall. He had added that the screening would not have been mandatory.
However, in a press release issued Feb. 16, the cardinal said the screening was never made official in a written policy statement. He said the archdiocese is in an ongoing process of revising its admission criteria for the seminary, “however, we can affirm even now that this revision will not impose a HIV test,” the statement said.
The cardinal also pointed out that the Archdiocese of Montreal shares and respects the societal values contained in the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Gazette’s Jan. 10 story, which first made the HIV-screening requirement public, had local gay-rights groups up in arms. They accused the archdiocese of discriminating against homosexuals and submitted a request to the Quebec Human Rights Commission to launch an investigation into the matter.
But Human Rights Commission spokesperson Ginette L’Heureux said that, after the archdiocese’s announcement two days ago, the commission will likely not follow through with any investigations.
Port au Prince, Haiti, Feb 18, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Haiti is calling on the country’s leaders and politicians to “urgently make the necessary decisions” to end the violence Haiti.
The bishops issued a statement “solemnly” reiterating their invitation “to political and civil leaders” to take this “personal and patriotic decision,” and they called on “the parties involved in the conflict to unblock public transportation routes so that aid groups can bring the necessary humanitarian assistance to the wounded and injured.”
The bishops also appealed to the consciences of the Haitian people “so that every human life may be respected and protected.”
More than 50 people have died since the outbreak of an armed uprising in northeastern Haiti on February 5.
The international organization Aid to the Church in Need published the statements of an anonymous Haitian bishop denouncing the “complete confusion” currently prevailing in the country due to protests against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, adding that “civil war is possible.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 18, 2004 (CNA) - The new Archbishop of Antequera-Oaxaca, José Luis Chávez Botello, has denounced the rapid spread of Central American gangs in southern Mexico, and called attention to the “lack of resources and capability” of the local governments to combat them.
“Sometimes not even the state has the capability and we should be honest, not because they don’t want to, but because they do not have the resources, or because they see our laws and sometimes it is outside their competence,” explained the bishop, adding that the gangs are examples of organized crime and that therefore it is necessary y that all three levels of government—federal, state and local—take coordinated action against them.
“The reason these gangs engage in violence is not because of injustice, it’s now something else. It’s now organized crime, and therefore the response has to be different,” the bishop added.
Therefore, he continued, “the rapid and articulated presence of local, state and federal governments is urgently needed to be aware of these outbreaks and not allow them to create serious problems.”
National Migration Institute has acknowledged that the gangs have become a security problem for Mexico, deporting last year over 188,000 illegal aliens, mostly Central Americans, to their countries of origin.
Archbishop Chávez warned that if the gangs are not stopped, they could cause serious harm to society “and new gangs could spring up and would have to be watched.” He concluded reaffirming the necessity of combating the lack of education and values which exists in Mexican society.
In recent months southern Mexico has seen a surge in the number of gangs on the border areas with Guatemala and Belize due to ant-gang laws that we passed in 2003 in El Salvador and Honduras.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 18, 2004 (CNA) - The Spanish Bishops Conference has responded to a recently revealed unpublished decision by a judge in the Navarre province which granted authorization for the adoption of twin sisters by a lesbian couple, saying that when homosexuals are given to right to adopt children, the right of minors to have a father and a mother is not respected.
“The lack of a father and a mother always causes difficulties in personality development. This lack, which is aggravated in the case of homosexual unions, demands an even greater effort by the child solidly establish his normal sexual identity,” said Fr. José Antonio Martínez Camino, secretary of the Bishops’ Conference.
Fr. Martínez denied that homosexuals are discriminated against by not being allowed to adopt children, saying that “we should instead think that the adopted child is the one unjustly treated in these circumstances.”
“Children have an unrenounceable right to have a father and a mother. If under normal circumstances this is not possible, they should be provided an environment which most reflects a natural family. In this case we believe a child’s right to a father and a mother is not being respected,” he warned.
Referring to the problem of children who suffer the temporary separation and absence of their parents because of divorce, Fr. Martínez said it “is an unfortunate and problematic situation for children, but that does not mean we are going to create new problems by making choices that ignore education and the rights of children.”
A family judge in Pamplona used existing laws on couples to justify a ruling in favor of granting a lesbian couple the right to adopt two 1 year-old twin sisters, which one of them conceived by artificial insemination and carried to term. The case has become the first instance of adoption by a homosexual couple in Spain.