In a meeting at the Vatican Feb. 16, U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley told Anti-Defamation League president Abraham Foxman the he saw no anti-Semitism in “The Passion of the Christ.”
"I would hope people would accept the film as a meditation on our own culpability for Christ's suffering," the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications told the Catholic News Service.
The archbishop told CNS that he hoped people would be aware of the Church’s strong teaching that anti-Semitism is a sin and that not all the Jews of Christ's time, nor in all of history, can be blamed for his death. A week before the film’s theatrical release, Foxman was in Rome to urge the Vatican to release a statement, indicating that the film does not reflect Catholic belief and teachings about the role of the Jewish people in Christ’s death.
The film is “contrary to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and Church guidelines on the presentation of the Passion," Foxman told CNS.
Foxman told CNS that the ADL was urging bishops' conferences around the world to repeat the council's teaching and to point out that the film is actually Gibson's version of the Gospel, “not the Gospel version."
"If the Church reminds those viewers of its interpretation of history, its interpretation of the Gospel, its understanding of Biblical history ... it will act in a large measure to inoculate against the possibility of anti-Semitism," Foxman told Reuters.
According to Reuters, Foxman also challenged Gibson to appear in an on-screen post-script to the film and tell audiences it should not be seen as anti-Jewish. There is no word yet if Gibson has considered to do this.
"The Passion of the Christ" will hit screens next Wednesday.