Archive of March 12, 2004

Archdiocese of Denver is “patron saint of the Passion of the Christ,” says film's producer

Denver, Colo., Mar 12, 2004 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Denver has become the “patron saint” of “The Passion of the Christ,” said the blockbuster’s executive producer Steve McEveety, during a ceremony Thursday night in which Mel Gibson’s film received the Imago Dei award. According to the event’s organizers, the annual award recognizes a person or entity that has been inspirational in accepting the Gospel invitation to act “in the image of God.” Imago Dei is Latin for “Image of God.”

The Archdiocese of Denver decided to give the award to “The Passion of the Christ,” its cast and crew, “because of the impact the film has had on those who have already seen it and in leading the millions who will see it to encounter the person and message of Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput presented the award to Steve McEveety and Jim Caviezel, who accepted it on behalf of the filmmakers. Caviezel portrays Jesus in the film.

“To portray Jesus is almost impossible, but this film has done it,” said Fr. Michael Glenn, Rector of the St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, during the event held at Denver’s Hyatt Regency.

The event raised funds for the two major seminaries in Denver, St. John Vianney and Redemptoris Mater. Some 20 to 25 men enter the two seminaries each year, and many dioceses are approaching the Archdiocese of Denver for the formation of their seminarians.

“I left the movie having decided to become a better and a holier priest,” Fr. Glenn said.

“I've seen The Passion of the Christ four times.  Each time I've been struck by how deeply it affects people,” said Archbishop Chaput before presenting the award. “It's not just a great ‘religious’ film.  It’s an uncommonly beautiful film by any standard. But it’s also more than that.

“What the Passion does better than any movie I've ever seen, is to take all those intimate longings of the human heart and make them come alive in the sacrifice of a real man, who really lived for us, really died for us and really rose again for us - because He really loved us,” the Archbishop said.

Addressing the criticism faced by the movie, Chaput said that “some critics say it's anti-Semitic... but The Passion isn't about the Sanhedrin.  It's about the man who died to overcome the sin of hate.” 

“Some critics say it's violent, and yes that's true. But The Passion isn't about the violence.  It's about the love that was willing to endure it,” he added.

Later, speaking about the film's success, Archbishop Chaput said:  “I must confess:  Father, forgive me for being really, really, really happy for Mr. Gibson, his family, and everyone who worked on this picture.”

After receiving the award, Jim Caviezel said that “this film made Jesus even bigger than the Beatles,” in an ironic reference to John Lennon's infamous claim that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus Christ.”

Caviezel shared with the audience his initial concerns about playing Jesus in a movie to be spoken in Aramaic and Latin.

He also shared the difficulties – especially the physical pain – of shooting the movie. Nevertheless, Caviezel said he “always found this gentle hand guiding my way.”

Praying the rosary, going to confession, and receiving the Holy Eucharist were “the secret” of the film’s success, said Caviezel, who also revealed that his constant prayer was that he himself might not be visible but that Christ would be.

“God is calling us all to be saints,” said the actor, who called the seminarians to “overcome the temptation of being ‘light,’ of falling into a life comfort,” and invited them to become holy priests and “to challenge the laity to be saintly.”
”Freedom from sin, from your weaknesses, this is the freedom I desire for all,” he said.

McEveety told the audience that enduring the difficulties of making and promoting the movie was possible “because we all have pretty powerful women behind us.” 

“This movie would not be what it is without those women,” he said, referring to his own wife and the wives of Mel Gibson, Caviezel, and others involved in the film.
Both Karri Caviezel and Susie McEveety were present at the award ceremony.

McEveety said that during the first days of the controversy around the film, the Archbishop of Denver “was the lone soldier that supported us from the very beginning.”

After giving thanks to the Archbishop and his Chancellor, Francis Maier, the movie’s executive director concluded: “the Archdiocese of Denver is the patron saint of the Passion of the Christ.”

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Archbishop of Lima: one is never the same after seeing “The Passion of the Christ”

Lima, Peru, Mar 12, 2004 (CNA) - At the conclusion of a private screening of “The Passion of the Christ,” Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, Archbishop of Lima, said one cannot walk out of theater the same person.
”No one can be indifferent after seeing this film.  It is a sign of contradiction.  Nobody who sees it will be the same,” the Cardinal told CNA at the screening, which was attended by bishops and dozens of priests. 

Cardinal Cipriani underscored the realism of the film, “which is perfectly faithful to what the Gospels say,” adding that the intensity “will lead many people to reflect above all on the immense love of God and the enormous pain of His sacrifice.” 

He asked those who will see the film to remember “that God allows this pain so that humanity might receive forgiveness, the reconciliation of God with humanity.  We are witnessing a moment in which the history of humanity is changing forever.” 

He also said the film will be of much benefit to priests, religious, believers and non-believers. 

In the case of Catholics, he pointed out that “this joining of love and pain makes us see how the cross is the conclusion of the Last Supper and how this sacrifice is renewed in each Mass,” adding that “for priests, for those who attend Mass, recalling these images will be a great aid in sharing the sacrifice of the altar.” 

Cardinal Cipriani said he was most impacted by the portrayal of Mary in the film.  “So many times we imagine that Mary could not have been far away.  She appears in very isolated moments in the Gospels.  Today we have seen her with remarkable realism as a mother who loves her Son and accepts the role God has given her.” 

Asked about the controversy surrounding the violence in the film, the Cardinal was unambiguous.  “Honestly there are movies which are infinitely more violent, harsh and ill-willed.  Here there is realism in the images but we cannot say it is violent, because the intention is to portray the giving of one’s life out of love,” he said.

The Cardinal also rejected accusations of anti-Semitism.  “I did see an attempt to incite hatred for Jews in any part of the film or its dialogue.  Christ dying for humanity calls us to forgiveness and reconciliation,” he said.

Cardinal Cipriani went even further saying the accusations are about “organized criticism because of its enormous evangelistic nature and the enormous good that his movie is going to bring.  Unfortunately we see some people tearing their garments trying to avoid good.  I think the movie will bring much good.”

The Cardinal “highly” recommends the film “to priests and to all people.  I believe that so much love, pain and mercy will move many people.  The Gospels console us.  All of this was for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of the world and to bring about a new covenant.”

“We should open our hearts—where conversion takes place—with greater vigor, now that Holy Week is coming, to the Word of God being conveyed by this movie.  If we are sincere and humble of heart, we will recognize that the world has been made through the love of the Cross,” said the Cardinal.

Lastly, he said, “We should not be afraid.  Let us look plainly upon the drama of the cross in our own lives.”  “The world thirsts for the love of the Resurrection but this love first passes through the suffering of the cross.  There is no joy without suffering or love without conversion.  Sometimes the world only wants the fruit but is afraid to go through the cross, and all of us have crosses,” he said.

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Navarro-Valls says “Passion” not anti-Semitic

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2004 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Holy See, Joaquín Navarro-Valls commented on Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” saying “there is nothing anti-Semitic” in the film because otherwise the Holy Father would have denounced it.

“The Pope has seen the film and the silence of the Church hierarchy is very eloquent.  There is nothing anti-Semitic, because otherwise it would have been condemned,” Navarro-Valls explained.

In an interview with the Italian daily “Il Messagero,” the Vatican spokesman added that “the movie is a cinematic transcription of the Gospels.  If the movie were anti-Semitic, the Gospels would be as well.”

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Spanish Bishops call for charity and solidarity

Madrid, Spain, Mar 12, 2004 (CNA) - In the wake of yesterday’s terrorist bombings in Madrid, the Spanish Bishops Conference issued a statement condemning terrorism and calling the tragedy “a moment for charity and solidarity.”

Although authorities have not determined if the Basque separatist group ETA is responsible for the attacks, the bishops made reference to the group in their statement, saying “it is not morally possible to politically engage ETA, either directly or indirectly,” but they added that to react against the organization out of hatred works in ETA’s favor.

The bishops expressed their spiritual solidarity with the families of victims, and they asked priests to offer prayers for the eternal repose of those killed.

“For ETA the political independence of the Basque Country is of absolute importance, and to achieve this end it has not ceased to scorn and step all over the basis upon which peace and the common good are sustained, that is, respect for human rights, and above all, the right to life,” the bishops said.

Lastly, the bishops called for action against terrorism and renewed cooperation with authorities, and they exhorted Christians to help those who suffer the consequences of this ferocious attack.  “Now is the time for charity and solidarity with the victims,” they said.

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Boston archbishop discourages proposal to include same-sex unions in marriage amendment

Boston, Mass., Mar 12, 2004 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Boston supports a legal amendment to protect the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman but discourages a proposal that would introduce same-sex civil unions and same-sex couple benefits into the same measure.

"We support the Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment as it has been presented, without the introduction of civil-unions language," wrote Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley. "A debate about social benefits given to other individuals in our law is a separate issue."

Archbishop P. O’Malley issued the statement March 10, one day before the Massachusetts State Legislature re-convened the constitutional convention. In it, he also renewed his call to Catholics to pray and to work together to defend marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

"The amendment reaffirming marriage as the union between one man and one woman must be approved on its own merits," he said. "Joining this amendment to the issue of civil unions deprives the people an opportunity to express their views on marriage.

"Linking the two coerces people in a way that is unfair," he continued. "Voting on them separately respects the will of the public."

The archbishop said legislators must protect the unique benefit marriage brings to society and "the good that this bond produces for children."

The archbishop said he was also concerned that giving same-sex couples the same benefits and protections as those given to husbands and wives will "pose a grave threat to religious liberty and the freedom of conscience.

"Whether the name used is same-sex marriage or civil unions, an equal treatment requirement in the constitution may be used to coerce private and public entities to adopt practices that would violate their values and understanding of the family and social justice," he said.

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Jesus in the garden is most important scene in ‘Passion’, says bishop

, Mar 12, 2004 (CNA) - The bishop of Brooklyn said he will never pray the Stations of the Cross, say the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, or read the passion narratives in the same way again, since he saw Mel Gibson's film on the Passion of Christ.

In his weekly column in Brooklyn’s diocesan newspaper, The Tablet, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said the "The Passion of the Christ" was a "somewhat accurate portrayal of what happened or what could have happened in the various parts of Jesus' passion."

However, he stressed that the most important scene in the movie is that of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane because it portrays Jesus submitting to the will of God.

Bishop DiMarzio dismissed the idea that the movie is anti-Semitic, as many critics have charged, saying that only those who are looking for anti-Jewish sentiment will judge it that way.

"If one goes to find anti-Semitism through an interpretation of what is seen, one could believe that the movie has anti-Semitic elements," he wrote.

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Woman charged with murder for death of stillborn

Salt Lake City, Utah, Mar 12, 2004 (CNA) - A mother, who allegedly ignored medical warnings to have a Caesarean section when pregnant to save her twins, was charged yesterday with murder after one of the babies was stillborn, reported the Associated Press.

An autopsy found the baby died two days before its Jan. 13 delivery and that it would have survived had Rowland agreed to a C-section when doctors advised her, during one of her four medical visits between Christmas and Jan. 9, reported the AP. The other baby is living.

Prosecutors said Melissa Ann Rowland refused the C-section for purely cosmetic reasons – she did not want to be scarred from the surgery. A nurse told police the 28-year-old said she would rather "lose one of the babies than be cut like that."

In January, the state Supreme Court ruled that unborn children at all stages of development are covered under the state's criminal homicide statute, except in the case of abortion.

The law has been used to prosecute women who kill or seriously harm their babies through drug use, reported AP. This is the first time it is being used because a woman failed to follow her doctor's advice.

Charges against Rowland carry five years to life in prison. Rowland was jailed on $250,000 bail.

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