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Gibson says The Passion is not about blame for Crucifixion

Blaming Jews for the death of Jesus is not the point of The Passion of the Christ, according to director Mel Gibson.

Speaking on Monday to interviewer Diane Sawyer on ABC TV in the US, he said: "It's about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. ... It is reality for me. ... I believe that."

But at the same time, the US director of the Anti-Defamation League was at the Vatican seeking a statement from the Holy See asserting that the film does not reflect Catholic belief about the role of the Jews in the death of Jesus.

"I'm reaching out to the Catholic Church and saying, 'It's time for you to step up to the plate. Mr. Gibson is challenging your teaching,'" Abraham Foxman told Catholic News Service on Tuesday.

"He is marketing this film as the Gospel truth, the historic truth in a way contrary to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and church guidelines on the presentation of the Passion," he said.

Meanwhile in Australia, Jewish leaders last night attended an advance screening of the film at the invitation of Multicultural Affairs Minister Gary Hardgrave. The event was organised by the parliamentary Christian fellowship in Canberra.

Before the film, Athol Morris from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said that while the film was "just entertainment, not gospel", he was concerned it could ignite latent anti-Semitism.

"If there are enough people of bad will anxious to run with anti-Semitism, this could give them enough fuel to do it," Mr Morris said.

The main source of the controversy was a scene in which the Jewish high priest Caiaphas curses the Jewish people after Jesus's crucifixion, declaring: "His blood be on us and on our children."

Gibson agreed to delete the scene after it drew complaints from audiences.

Mr Hardgrave invited Mr Morris and ACT Jewish community leader Gary Fellman, along with Catholic and Anglican leaders, to last night's screening and to drinks and discussion afterwards.

"I don't think there has ever been a movie made about the life of Jesus Christ that hasn't stirred up some controversy along the way," Mr Hardgrave said. "But I don't see this movie as causing any harm or division in the community."

Jewish Labor MP Michael Danby said he hoped the film would not undermine the "great progress we have all made in Australia to tolerance and understanding".

The Passion of The Christ opens next Wednesday.

Jewish leader visits Rome, discusses 'Passion' with Vatican officials (Catholic News Service 17/2/04)
Gibson: Faith, hope -- not blame for Crucifixion -- at 'Passion' core (Catholic News Service 17/2/04)
Senior Jews fear anti-Semitism with a Passion (The Australian 19/2/04)

"Passion" labelled gospel according to Mel (Reuters 17/2/04)
Passion of Gibson's film on Christ is in the conflict it generates (Sydney Morning Herald 17/2/04)
Mel Gibson Says "Passion" Critics Miss the Point (Zenit 15/2/04)
How The Passion Changed Him ( Catholic Register 21/12/03)
Passion of the Christ (Lateline 17/2/04)
Jewish Leader Wants Vatican Stand on Gibson Film (Reuters 17/2/04)
Adelaide Christian leaders get movie preview (ABC 17/2/04)
Passion furore surprises Gibson (The Age/AAP 18/2/04)
Gibson's Passion defence (AAP/The Mercury 18/2/04)
NCC Offers Reflection Guide for Passion of the Christ (Insights 16/2/04)

19 Feb 2004