Rabbi Urges Pope to Speak Out Against 'The Passion'
Friday, February 27, 2004; 5:51 AM
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's Chief Rabbi urged Pope John
Paul to speak out against Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the
Christ" to prevent Christian-Jewish relations from being
undermined by the movie, his office said Friday.
Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger wrote to the pope expressing
concern the film could set back decades of Jewish-Christian
reconciliation since the Vatican in 1965 rejected the notion
that the Jews were collectively responsible for death of Jesus.
"It is regrettable that a tendentious, malicious film
should undermine the progress (at reconciliation) that we have
worked for with such great care," Metzger wrote in the letter.
Jewish groups have complained that Gibson's film, which has
grossed more than $20 million since its release Wednesday,
could foment anti-Jewish attacks over its graphic depiction of
the torture and crucifixion of Jesus.
"Many viewers may be led to believe that the Jews are
collectively responsible for the crucifixion of Christ. Indeed,
the film may provoke undesirable anti-Semitic responses both in
the short-term and in the long-term," he wrote in the letter.
Gibson, a traditionalist Catholic who rejects the 1965
Vatican reforms, has denied the film is anti-Semitic.
It has been lauded by many Christian believers as helping
them reassert their faith, but Jewish groups and some theater
goers have complained the film demonizes Jews by depicting them
as having pressured the Romans into crucifying Jesus.
In a bid to prevent the film from reviving age-old tension
between Christians and Jews, U.S. bishops have issued a booklet
highlighting the Vatican's position that Jews were not
collectively responsible for Jesus' death.
Metzger urged the Pope to consider "an appropriate response
on the part of the Church" to the film. He gave no further
details but said the response should be done in a way that does
not attract further publicity for the film.
Metzger is Chief Rabbi for Ashkenazi Jews, who originate
from Europe. The Chief Rabbi of the Sephardi community of Jews
from North Africa and the Arab world was unavailable for
Full Legal Notice
© 2004 Reuters