‘The Passion’ should not affect Jewish-Catholic relations, says Archbishop Chaput

Members of the Jewish and Catholic faith have the right to differ over “The Passion of the Christ” but that should not have a negative impact on Jewish-Christian relations in the long term, said Archbishop Charles Chaput. The archbishop of Denver delivered this message yesterday as part of his opening remarks to those gathered for the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue on the New Anti-Semitism.

The meeting was co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Denver and the American Jewish Committee.

Rabbi James Rudin, senior inter-religious adviser to the AJC, and Bill Beckman, former theological adviser to Cardinal James Francis Stafford and former interfaith officer of the Archdiocese of Denver, also gave presentations at the teaching seminar on anti-Semitism.

The archbishop, who serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said one of the most troubling trends he has seen in “the rise of a new kind of anti-Jewish violence in Europe and the Third World.”

Anti-Semitism “is not a Christian monopoly,” he clarified. “It has deep roots in pagan and Muslim culture as well, and also in modern secular politics.

“For Catholics, anti-Semitism is more than a human rights issue.  It's a form of sacrilege and blasphemy against the people God chose for His own, and therefore it's a very serious sin.  It's also a contradiction of our own religious roots,” he said. 

The archbishop also took the opportunity to address the recent controversy that has emerged from the upcoming release of Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ”, on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25.

The archbishop acknowledged that a number of Jewish leaders, including Rudin, who saw the film, “have been very troubled by it.”

But he added: “Nearly all the Christian leaders who have seen it – myself included – have been deeply moved by it.”

The archbishop said he hopes every adult Catholic and non-Catholic in northern Colorado sees the film. “But I also understand the historical reasons why the Jewish community would be uneasy about any Passion play,” he said.

“We're not going to bridge those different experiences of the film tonight, because we can't.  I'm sure we'll get some questions about the movie during our discussion here, and that's appropriate. But I hope we don't lose focus on what we agree about – a new wave of anti-Semitism is on the rise, it's wrong, and it should deeply concern both Catholics and Jews,” he said.

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