Archive of March 11, 2004

Jewish groups seek to prevent release of Passion in Brazil

Albany, N.Y., Mar 11, 2004 (CNA) - A week before the national premier of “The Passion” in Brazil, a Jewish lawyer has asked the Brazilian Department of Justice to prevent the film from being shown in the country because he considers it too violent.  Ironically the lawyer admitted he had purchased and viewed a pirated version of the film.

Jacob Pinheiro Goldberg sent a letter to the Department of Justice demanding the film not be allowed to be shown.  “It’s an apologetic and a historical distortion capable of leading to anti-Semitic discrimination,” charged Goldberg, who apparently showed no concern for promoting film piracy.

The action was the latest in a series of attacks against the film.  Earlier the Rabbi of Sao Paulo, Henry Sobel said he felt “repulsion” and “horror” from the “cruelty” of the film, even claiming that “several bishops” supported him in his accusations of anti-Semitism.

Nevertheless, the president of the National Bishops Conference of Brazil, Cardinal Gerardo Majella Agnello, who attended the same private screening of the film as Sobel, told reporters “one cannot conclude that there is anti-Semitism” in the movie.

He acknowledged the movie is powerful but he trusted it would draw large crowds and inspire them to read the Bible.

Several bishops are scheduled to speak about the movie during a press conference Friday in Brasilia.

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Bishops and priests encourage Chileans to see “Passion”

Santiago, Chile, Mar 11, 2004 (CNA) - After a private screening in the Chilean capital, bishops and priests expressed support for the movie The Passion of the Christ, rejecting accusations of anti-Semitism and explaining that the violence in the film is faithful to the Gospel.  They are encouraging Chileans to go to theaters to see it and reflect on the love of God.

20th Century Fox organized the special screening at its offices in advance of the film’s March 18 release.

Bishop Juan Ignacio González of San Bernardo said those who saw the film expressed positive comments. “I think it is an excellent film to see during Holy Week to really enter into the subject.  It personally impacted me greatly and I think it will impact people greatly as well,” he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrés Arteaga of Santiago said he felt “the movie is very powerful.  I was moved, it’s remarkable.  Although I expected something even stronger from all the talk about it.  It is a film I believe will be good for many people.  I was most moved by the attitude of the Virgin Mary and how Jesus looked at her, at those who betrayed him and at those who handed him over.”

No anti-Semitism

Bishop Arteaga said there is no need to worry about the Jewish community.

Those who betrayed Jesus were his friends, his disciples.  The religious authorities were divided as were the people.  The Gospels speak of this as well.  Moreover, the Church is very clear about the fact and interpretation of the Passion of Christ,” recalled the bishop.

According to Bishop Arteaga, “After you see the film, you are left with the feeling of something remarkable, which is the life of Christ.  It’s a film that speaks of His voluntary sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.  One leaves with the urge to struggle against injustice, and in the case of a Christian, to be more faithful to Jesus Christ.”


The Vicar General of Santiago, Fr. Rafael Hernández, revealed he broke down in tears.  “The realism of the film moved me deeply.  I very much liked the acting, especially of Jesus and Mary.  They didn’t seem like actors, they seemed natural,” he said.

“As a movie it can only be an approximation, some things are interpretations, such as the flashback to the childhood of Jesus, for example.  Although one can say, ‘Yes, it could have been that way’,” he said.

“In some way the movie makes one re-live and fully grasp what the death of Jesus was, like losing your parents and then seeing a movie about them.  You become moved knowing that they are dead, because you re-live it,” he added.

Faithful to the Gospel

Youth Ministry leader Fr. Hugo Tagle said the film “is faithful to the historic truth and conforms very closely to the testimonies of the Gospels, especially that of St. John, the dialogue is word for word,” and “you can say that every scene has something to do with the Gospels.”

Fr. Tagle said, “There are very beautiful and elegant scenes.  Behind this film is someone with a very pure soul who has sought to be faithful to what the Lord’s Passion could have been.”

Fr. Juan Díaz, who is the Vicar for Education for the Archdiocese of Santiago, underscored that “the film is violent, but that’s the way it was.  I believe the death and suffering of Christ was very violent and as such the movie depicts these moments accurately.”

Fr. Samuel Fernandez, dean of the School of Theology at the Pontifical University in Santiago, said the movie “is remarkable and very well done from an esthetic point of view and faithful to the Gospels.  The fundamental issues are depicted very well.”

Regarding the violence, Fr. Fernandez said, “It’s not that the film seeks to be more violent than the Gospels, which are much understated and sober in their depictions but nevertheless convey the crudeness of the Passion.”

 When asked if Gibson’s film was too violent, Fr. Fernandez said, “If the film was called ‘Jesus’ I would say yes.  But since it is called ‘The Passion’ they are saying it is about the Passion.  I don’t think it is over-the-top.”

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Second Papal visit to Rome synagogue under consideration

Vatican City, Mar 11, 2004 (CNA) - The magazine “Familia Cristiana” is reporting that a second visit by Pope John Paul II to a Roman synagogue is currently under discussion.

Although sources within the Jewish community told reporters the visit has not been confirmed, “Familia Cristiana” said it could take place May 23, the synagogue’s 100th anniversary, but “discussions are currently taking place.” The chief rabbi of Rome, Ricardo Di Segni, said the Jewish community invited “the Pope more than a month ago, but up to now there has been no certainty regarding the visit.  An answer is expected by the end of March.”

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Catholic Church hears requests to excommunicate mayor

Chicago, Ill., Mar 11, 2004 (CNA) - A Chicago man is circulating a petition asking Cardinal Francis George to excommunicate Mayor Richard Daley for his public show of support for same-sex marriage.

Raymond Wardingley, reportedly a perennial political candidate and professional clown, made the request to the cardinal in a letter Monday, reported Newsday yesterday. 

Wardinley has argued that if the mayor or any other Catholic breaks Church law, they should not be allowed to be in the Church.

A spokesperson said the cardinal met with Daley in private last week but would not comment publicly beyond a statement that same-sex marriage is not possible according to Church teaching.

Diane Dunagan said the Archdiocese of Chicago has received about a dozen calls from other people, asking the cardinal to discipline the mayor.

“The cardinal has made his stand clear, and he comments to politicians in private," she was quoted as saying.

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Pope John Paul II marks new milestone as third-longest reigning pope

Vatican City, Mar 11, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II will become the third-longest reigning pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, exceeding the reign of Leo XIII by serving 9,281 days since his election October 1978.

The Pope, who celebrated his 25th anniversary as pontiff last fall, will come in third after Pius IX, who served more than 31 years, and the first pope, the Apostle Peter, whose dates are not confirmed.

The 83-year-old pontiff will mark this remarkable milestone Sunday but the occasion will pass without any big celebrations.

Pius IX served from June 1846 to February 1878. Historians are divided over whether Peter served 34 or 37 years as the first pope.

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