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.