Pirated copies of ‘Passion’ strike ‘heavy blow against atheism’ in China

.- “The Passion of the Christ” has “struck a heavy blow against atheism,” says one Chinese youth, despite government policy that could potentially ban the film from cinemas because of its religious nature.

However, since early March, Mainland China Christians have circumvented this possibility and have resorted to viewing pirated copies of the film on DVD, reported AsiaNews.

“The Passion of the Christ” begins showing in cinemas in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan at the beginning of April. But there is no indication about whether the film will be shown in Mainland China.

Foreign movies entering China must undergo strict censorship by government authorities. The State advocates atheism in education, and school textbooks define Jesus as a mythical character. Any film as religious as “The Passion” risks being banned and viewed as a challenge to communist state authority.

"‘The Passion’ is a very powerful evangelization tool, so it is highly unlikely it will be shown publicly in China," said one Catholic webmaster, who requested anonymity.

But the movie’s huge grassroots success, as seen in the demand for pirated DVDs, has "struck a heavy blow against atheism," he said. DVDs of the film have become widely available, and the government has already begun cracking down on these pirated copies.

One underground priest admitted to buying a DVD copy for 9 yuan (about $1) on the street and said he intends to show it to his parishioners on Good Friday, April 9, reported AsiaNews.

"The quality is not good and the Chinese translation is lousy. But for those of us who know the Bible, we know what's going on," he said.

Other parishes in the government-approved official Church have reportedly notified their members of the availability of DVD copies at their own parish stores and encouraged them to watch it.

The webmaster said discussions on the film have been going for some on time on his Web blog. He said many secular sites in China also carry news about the film. In addition, various Protestant Web sites enable the film to be downloaded from another site in China.

"Quite a number of lay people have said they felt their faith strengthened after watching the movie and felt differently when praying the 14 Stations of the Cross at Lent," the webmaster said.

One Chinese university student recommended the film to friends and said one of them asked him to tell him more stories of the Bible, and another expressed his wish to join the Church.

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