Jesuit scholar describes dealing with ‘Passion’ controversy as a ‘pilgrimage’

Fr. William J. Fulco, SJ, who was deeply involved in the production of “The Passion of the Christ”, got a little more than he bargained for when he agreed to translate the script into Aramaic. The film experience became a “real pilgrimage” that affirmed him in his priestly ministry.

According to a report issued by ABS-CBN Television, Mel Gibson called Fr. Fulco, while the priest was on a project in Jerusalem, and asked if he would be interested doing the Aramaic translation.

Once the translation was done, the Jesuit priest got the job of supervising the coaching of the actors in Latin. The writing team chose to use Latin over Greek “for artistic reasons,” said Fr. Fulco.

The professor of Mediterranean studies also became an adviser on archaeological, historical, theological and biblical matters and dealt with the individual religious issues of the multireligious cast.

Fr. Fulco was also on board when the claims were made that the script was anti-Semitic. He recounted how the controversy surrounding the film began with the concerns of the Jewish community that the script was anti-Semitic but it soon evolved. It questioned whether the Gospels were anti-Semitic and implied that Christianity, if strictly followed, is anti-Semitic.

The priest described the controversy as “a real pilgrimage, with a lot of self-doubt,” especially since he had taught for years at the University of Judaism and worked for the Israeli Department of Antiquities. He had also questioned whether he had been careless in his work with the script.

“The film is not anti-Semitic; we have not made a mistake,” he concluded, according to ABS-CBN. “It is a beautiful work of art.

“I gradually became more militant about it, and now I feel like I am doing something priestly, preaching the Gospel, and it seems when you preach the Gospel, it invites flak,” he said.

“It is not anti-Semitic; it is preaching Jesus crucified,” he added. “And Paul says in his letters that to preach Jesus crucified is a stumbling block and a scandal and that is not the wisdom of the world.”

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