Pope John Paul II saw Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” and endorsed the film saying: “It is as it was,” reported National Review columnist Peggy Noonan.
The Pope reportedly saw the film the weekend before last in his private rooms with his close friend, Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz. He shared his review with Msgr. Dziwisz, who in turn gave the film’s co-producer, Steve McEveety, the Pope’s five-word response the following Monday.
The Pope’s response was: "It is as it was." Essentially, the Pope felt that the film tells the story of Christ’s Passion the way that it actually happened.
The Vatican has avoided official comment on the film because the film has been accused of being anti-Semitic. But, according to Noonan and McEveety, John Paul II wanted to see the film despite the controversy.
McEveety had flown to Rome uninvited to try to show the film to as many Vatican officials as he could. He ended up giving the DVD to Msgr. Dziwisz on Dec. 5.
The Pope saw the film, found it very powerful and approved of it, reported McEveety.
A week later McEveety was still marveling at what he felt was the oracular quality of the Pope’s statement, comprised of five words and eleven letters.
"I was kind of relieved; it's a scary thing," said McEveety. "But Billy Graham saw it and was very supportive, and now JPII."
John Paul’s response to the film is significant, argues Noonan, “because of his history, the facts of his life. He is a scholar, a poet and former playwright who loves the drama and himself considered acting on and writing for the stage professionally.
And no pope has done more for Jewish-Christian relations than he has. He has had a profound engagement with Jews and Judaism both since his elevation and before it. He would know cheap when he sees it, and he would know anti-Semitic, too. His approbation would not be given lightly.”
“I don't know if [the Pope’s words] will settle the matter. But for me they do, and for many they will,” said Noonan, who saw the film in a private screening in Washington last July.
“ I’m glad the Holy Father chose to see it; I’m glad he has spoken; I’m glad his judgment was ‘It is as it was’,” she wrote. “If this ends the controversy, or quells it, and I believe it should, that would be a beautiful gift to everyone this holiday season.”