Denver, Colo., Mar 19, 2004 (CNA) - Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, spoke with the Catholic News Agency last week when he was here to receive the Imago Dei Award, on behalf of the filmmakers and crew of “The Passion”, from the Archdiocese of Denver. The interview follows.
Q. Jim, regarding your faith, how has the movie changed your experience of suffering and what suffering means for you now?
A. I understand sacrifice so much more now than I ever have. During much of the filming I didn't know if I could make it, if I could do it because of the hypothermia. Dealing with hypothermia for one day is okay, even though it's very hard. But try dealing with it for five straight weeks on a cross with an overhang of more than 1,000 feet, and at the same time your shoulder is separated and you’re sick, you have pneumonia and you’re throwing up. At the same time, you’re getting struck by lightening. All of these things factor into when you scream out: “God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I have said that many, many times. You don't even know if you care if you make this movie anymore. This is the human side of me, but I know He [Jesus] did care. And if I hadn't gone through the suffering I would not have delivered the performance that you saw on the screen. It forced me into the arms of God. …
Q. Your faith is something that takes a central place in your life. Have you ever found a contradiction or a conflict between living your faith and your profession as an actor?
A. When you work for a bank, you work with money. Does that you mean you can't be Catholic and work for a bank? Can you not be Catholic and be president of the United States? Can you not be Catholic and be involved in any form of the communication world, whether it be a network reporter or whatnot? We need them [Catholics] in every mission, in every area. We need missionaries and good people.
Q. What role does your faith play in choosing films to work on?
A. [My faith] does not mean that I don't play sinful characters. That doesn't mean I will not do R-rated movies. This movie is certainly rated R. In fact, if you were to read the Bible you would give it a worse rating – NC17 to rated X. This is a very serious book full of lots of sinners and lots of holy people. I've played sinful people and characters as well as holy people. I try to find something that is redeemable in a story. I don't blaspheme Our Lord. There are things [films] that I won't do. And I just wait… God allows me to wait. If I see a script that I really like [but which has parts that are unacceptable to me] I ask them to change a part of it and – if they really want me – they will change it.
Q. How important is your faith in your married life and your marriage in your faith?
A. It's fundamental. It's like eating food. You have to eat every day; you have to receive the Eucharist. God gave my wife to me. She's a gift. I take care of her. She takes care of me. We love the way God would want us to love. We're an example to other people. We fail sometimes but we try often and then we get back up if we fail. We stay together and love each other as much as we can. My faith feeds into everything, my acting and whatnot. It's the soul.
Q. What is your reaction to the coverage of you in the press?
A. Much of the time in the press they look for angles to taint you. For example, they continually, they say: “devout Catholic Jim Caviezel, devout Catholic Jim Caviezel, devout Catholic Jim Caviezel.” [They do this] every time they present you in the press and you think: “What's wrong with that?”
But let me ask you, do they say: “devout scientologist Tom Cruise, devout scientologist Tom Cruise, devout scientologist Tom Cruise; devout Jew Adam Sandler, devout Jew Adam Sandler, devout Jew Adam Sandler”? They understand what they're doing – trying to taint you, make you a religious zealot. There's lots of persecution like this all the time. They [the press] are not open to how you live your life. I don't go and force my faith on others. I talk about it when asked and sometimes I don't even talk about it. But I live it. It's not what you say; it's what you do. … I can't worry about what people think. … I'll have to answer to God. I am more afraid of not doing the right thing, because I'll have to answer to Him some day.
Q. How do you explain the success of “The Passion”? Have you learned about any spiritual fruit that people have received from watching the movie since its release?
A. You can go on Internet sites and you can read about all the spiritual fruits, they're everywhere – all over the place. … But you'll hear [in the press] about one woman in Kansas dying of a heart attack while watching “The Passion”. They [the media] are going to find one negative thing, but there are millions and millions of good things. This film is going to help promote true peace, true peace in the world....
Q. Do you think this film will have some impact in people’s faith?
A. In many countries around the world, we water down our faiths to accommodate each other to bring churches together, this is wrong. I'm not asking Baptists to accept a form of Marianism and to understand what that is. That's the Holy Spirit's job…. At the end of the day, I ask you pray for my conversion and I'll pray for yours, but to water down our faith, to accommodate each other, is only accommodating one thing and that is sin.
Q. What is your favorite scene in the film?
A. In my favorite scene in the movie, Pontius Pilate speaks to Jesus. Jesus says: “Those that know me know the truth.” And then Pilate says: “What is the truth?” Jesus does not answer him. After that, Pilate speaks to his wife, Claudia, and he says: “What is this truth?” And she says: “If you don't know, I can't tell you.”
Much of the time, people have this idea that Jesus is a Bible thumper; he isn't. He speaks in truth. He speaks with full truth and full grace….
Q. What is your wish for Latin America and Spain after "The Passion of the Christ" is released?
A. I want the same thing for them as has happened here. That people would be open, that people would be open to the truth.
Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal William Keeler has urged the Senate to pass a bill that would recognize unborn children as second victims when their mothers are victims of federal crimes of violence. The Senate is expected to vote on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (S. 1019) as early as next week.
"When a pregnant woman is assaulted or killed, and her unborn child is harmed or killed as a result, the crime has two victims – the woman and her child," said the chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities. The cardinal made the statement in a press release, issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, yesterday.
Most U.S. states recognize and redress prenatal injury or death, resulting from violence inflicted upon a pregnant woman.
"It is disappointing that some insist the bill should be defeated to somehow preserve a ‘right' to abortion," the cardinal continued. "This bill simply ensures that both mother and child are protected from violent assault and murder."
The Senate is scheduled to debate two amendments to the bill, a "single-victim" substitute by Senator Feinstein and a lengthy amendment on domestic violence programs by Senator Murray.
"Substitute language that recognizes only the harm done to the woman but not to her child – the ‘single-victim' approach – is unfair to mothers and families who grieve the loss of their unborn children," Cardinal Keeler stated. "As Sharon Rocha, mother of Laci Peterson and grandmother of Connor, reminds us: ‘There were two bodies that washed up in San Francisco Bay, and the law should recognize that reality.'"
Rome, Italy, Mar 19, 2004 (CNA) - An article in the last issue of the bimonthly “Consecrated Life” warns of the dependence some men or women religious may develop on the Internet, when they isolate themselves from their communities and turn to the Net for new friendships and stimuli.
The religious news agency Vidivus Dominus highlighted the article, written by Comboni Father Joseph Crea, yesterday.
In his article, the priest said even the consecrated and religious are not immune to the widespread social problem of affective and sexual dependence on the Internet, which risks creating "real illegitimate and pathological behaviors."
The "lure of the Net … becomes more urgent than that of the community," wrote the psychologist and teacher at the "Claretianum" and at the Pontifical Athenaeum Salesian.
The social support a person gets on the Internet supercedes the need for interpersonal relationships, especially when such relationships have conflict or when there is an inadequate climate of friendship in one's own religious community, he wrote.
Some people also experience "deeper contact" through "virtual sexuality" created by the exchange of images or of "confessions” on the Net, he said.
Fr. Crea does not propose eliminating the Internet to solve the problem. Instead, he encourages a pedagogic approach in which others alert the person that something is not acceptable in the way he or she is living community life.
"With this approach, the consecrated person gets involved in rediscovering his own need of authenticity and conversion,” he writes. They also learn to recognize their limits and psycho-affective frailties, to return to the roots of their vocation."
Madrid, Spain, Mar 19, 2004 (CNA) - In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Spain on 3/11, which left more than 200 dead 1,500 wounded, dozens of anonymous victims, as wells as many of those who helped in the rescue efforts, have shared their testimonies of sincere forgiveness and mercy towards the terrorists and their comfort for those affected by the tragedy.
Amparo Buchón, who lost her two stepdaughters in the attacks, offered a moving testimony of faith in God and forgiveness towards the perpetrators of the attacks. “The Lord gave them to me and He has taken them away. We must accept His will. I feel so powerless because I can’t understand how someone could be capable of doing such harm. Nevertheless, my faith has sustained me and now it gives me strength to accept the situation with resignation and to forgive those who caused such pain and suffering. I offer them my heartfelt forgiveness and I pray God will touch their hearts.
Carmen Rubio, a nurse at La Paz Hospital, where victims were treated, shared the testimony of a Romanian who was injured in the attacks: “I was saved thanks to God.”
“I was on the verge of death and I had a book with me. As there was a lot of people I decided to move to another seat and that saved me life,” he said. Asked about the book he was reading, he replied it was “a Christian book.”
Rubio said these deaths “can only be forgiven by the grace of God, because otherwise it is impossible.” “John Paul II is an example of this for us. He suffered an attempt on his life and he went to prison to visit the man responsible, who hugged him and asked for forgiveness,” she said.Julio Lorenzo, a forensic doctor, revealed that while helping those injured during the attacks, he found his greatest comfort in God. “I could sense His presence in the solidarity of the people who were there. When we do not understand the mystery of evil, man cannot help but look to the One who knows the answer, the One who can do all things and can bring comfort.”
“Our tears are in a large part due to the emotional recognition of the presence of God in solidarity, they are tears of emotion upon feeling the presence of God among us, united together in suffering,” said Lorenzo, adding that “we must thank God for having shown us once again, that good overcomes evil.”
Maria Pilar, who lost her young son, wrote a letter in which she stated that “despite all of the pain in our hearts, we are experiencing the tenderness of God through countless people who weep with us.” She asked for prayers, “not for my son, who is now with the Father, but for the assassins and those who carried out this act, that they might someday find the love they need to heal their evil.”
“Before his remains we have promised we will work to achieve, no matter how insignificantly, the end of this plague. We who love outnumber them. Can they overcome that?” she asked.
Bogotá, Colombia, Mar 19, 2004 (CNA) - During a solemn Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Archbishop Juan Francisco Sarasti of Cali, Colombia, said the Church has already forgiven those responsible for the assassination of his predecessor, Archbishop Isaías Duarte.
“We have forgiven those responsible for the assassination whoever they may be, and irregardless of the responsibilities of the Colombian Justice system and the penalties which it might impose in the exercise of its constitutional powers,” said Archbishop Sarasti, recalling the second anniversary of the death of Archbishop Duarte.
Archbishop Sarasti acknowledged that “losing him lead to serious and irreparable consequences,” but he asked Colombians to reconcile with one another and to rediscover the teachings on peace, which his predecessor conveyed during his seven years as leader of the Archdiocese.
“Our gathering during this Eucharist is not only to simply remember him or pray that justice be done to these materially and intellectually responsible for the killing. We want to delve into the teachings he left us and reiterate our Christian forgiveness for those responsible for this horrible crime,” he said.
Archbishop Sarasti expressed his concern for the wave of violence that is affecting Cali. “It is painful to learn of crime taking place in our neighborhoods and communities that has lead authorities to take extraordinary, but necessary, measures, which I hope will restore calm,” the Archbishop said.
At the same time the Archbishop was celebrating Mass in the Cathedral, Auxiliary Bishop Gonzalo Restrepo of Cali presided at a Mass in the Church of the Good Shepherd, where Archbishop Duarte was killed.
Throughout the day, hundreds of people prayed at the tomb of Archbishop Duarte. “It is sad because he was a man who faithfully served the people of Cali, and so I have come to give him homage,” said Norma Guevara, who came to participate in the ceremonies.
Santiago, Chile, Mar 19, 2004 (CNA) - The Executive Committee of the Chilean Bishops Conference has issued a statement rejecting the legalization of divorce and reaffirming the bishops’ determination “to strengthen the foundations of Chilean married couples” so that they might be “a true sanctuary of life, of trust and peace.”
The statement, presented by Bishop Gonzalo Duarte of Valparaiso, explains that Article 20 the country’s Constitution will acknowledge that the conjugal covenant between spouses is founded upon the sacrament of Marriage. “Between themselves and before God they take on the unique commitment of loving each other as Christ loved us,” says the statement.
The bishops added that the covenant young people enter into through an indissoluble marriage can have the strength which they desire “and the law does not wish nor cannot it take that away.”
Bishop Duarte said the State and the Church should look to the future and as such the protection of the family is the responsibility of all. “We are not interested in the prestige of the Catholic Church, we are interested in the good of the family in Chile,” he said.
Referring to the position of certain “Catholic” lawmakers, Bishop Duarte said it was not the first time on the history of Chile that public officials who declare themselves to be Catholic do not follow the teaching of the Magisterium, adding that the position of the Church is not to condemn but to continue dialoguing about important subjects for the good of the country.
Bishop Duarte also commented on the relations between the Church and the government in the aftermath of the approval of the divorce law, saying, “We are in profound disagreement over this issue.” Nevertheless, he continued, the Church and the government continue to dialogue in search of a consensus in favor of the common good of Chilean society.
Lastly, asked about attempts to legalize abortion, Bishop Duarte recalled that the position of the Church is very clear: “Abortion is a crime.”
Madrid, Spain, Mar 19, 2004 (CNA) - In a Mass celebrated at a packed Cathedral de la Almudena, which was attended by Queen Sofía of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, Archbishop of Madrid, called on the Spanish people to not let the “hopeful truth” of eternal life in God be snatched away.
“God did not create death. He is the God of the living. The terrible trial we have just endured cannot diminish in the slightest the hopeful truth that mankind is destined to be with God,” the Cardinal told the faithful in attendance, which included several government officials, political party representatives, and family members of victims.
During his homily, the Archbishop of Madrid underscored the conduct of the people of Madrid, who, “from the first moment of the tragedy, responded with a swift and heroic response of faith and charity, in admirable contrast with the conduct of the killers who seem to live to kill others.”
Cardinal Rouco reminded the faithful that the purpose of coming together at Mass was “to pray for our brothers and sisters who have been violently snatched from this temporal life and to strengthen our hope in eternal life.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, which was carried live on Spanish TV, Queen Sofía, accompanied by the Cardinal and government officials, exited the Cathedral amidst the applause of those attending, shaking hands and greeting dozens as they left.