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Italian journalist says: “The Passion of the Christ” is the best film about Jesus ever made

MADRID, Spain, February 18 (CNA) - In an article written for the Spanish newspaper “La Razón”, the renowned Italian journalist Vittorio Messori recounts his experience seeing “The Passion of the Christ” saying the movie is greatest film about Jesus Christ ever produced because of its radical catholicity and the providential signs that marked its filming.

What Gibson was attempting with “The Passion” he has achieved: it hits you, is the title of the article by Messori, who attended a private screening of the final version of film at the invitation of Mel Gibson and Icon Producer Steve McEveety, together with a several other prominent Europeans.

According to Messori, there was complete silence in the theater even after the credits finished rolling and the lights were turned on. “Two women are quietly weeping; the bishop at my side is pale white, with his eyes closed; his young secretary nervously prays the rosary; the beginnings of a timid and mild applause quickly fade in embarrassment. For several long moments nobody gets up, nobody moves, nobody speaks,” he adds. Messori says that what we were told is true: “The Passion of the Christ” hits you. The effect on us was just as Gibson intended.”

Messori said the experience was disconcerting after years of believing he “knew everything” about the Passion. He discovered that he only “thought he knew it all,” because everything changes when the account is rendered into images that transform it into flesh and blood, into evident acts of love and of hatred.”

Providence and Perfection

Messori underscores the providential signs that occurred during filming: “conversions, the overcoming of drug addictions, reconciliation between enemies, the ending of adulterous relationships, appearances of mysteries individuals, explosions of extraordinary energy, extras who fell to their knees when Caviezel[‘s extraordinary Jesus passed by, even lighting strikes, one of which hit the cross but hurt no one. And after, coincidences that also were interpreted as signs: the Virgin Mary was played by a Jewish actress whose last name, Morgenstern, it was later learned, means “Morning Star” in German, as is recited in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Moreover, Messori says that for Gibson, the movie “is a Mass: do it, therefore, in a dead language, as it has been done for centuries. If the mind does not understand, better. What matters is that the heart understands that everything that happened was for our redemption from sin and opened for us the doors of salvation, as we read in the prophet Isaiah, which is a presented during the film’s prologue.”

Production-wise, adds Messori, “the film is of the highest quality. The works of Pasolini, Rossellini, and Zeffirelli seem poor and archaic by comparison. Gibson’s work has keen insight, majestic photography, extraordinary costumes, desolate, and when necessary, majestic sets, incredibly effective makeup, and a professional crew, guided by a director who is also a distinguished colleague.”

Radical Catholicity

Messori explains that the film presents “the faith in its most Catholic form” with the approval of the Pope and so many Cardinals, including Ratzinger, “full of symbolism, which only the trained eye can fully discern.”

For Messori, “the radical Catholicity “ of the film stems from the total rejection of any fictionalizing, from taking the Gospels as true history: the events, we are told, took place just as the Scriptures describe them. Its Catholicism is expressed in the recognition of the divinity of Jesus in complete union with his humanity.” And this “radical Catholicity,” he says, is also seen in the Eucharistic aspect, reaffirmed in its materiality: the blood of the Passion is forever united to the wine of the Mass, and the martyred flesh to the consecrated bread. It is also seen in the strong Marian tone: the Mother and the devil are always present, the one with her silent suffering, the other with his evil satisfaction.”

Messori also reveals that “if we need two hours on the sacrifice, we only need two minutes to remember that that was not the last word: from Good Friday we go to the Resurrection, which Gibson has portrayed by drawing from the words of St. John, which I also suggested. The shroud is ‘emptied,’ leaving behind a sufficient sign to ‘see and believe‘ that the one condemned has triumphed over death.”

Anti-semitism?

Messori concludes his article with the question, “anti-semitism or Anti-Judaism? We should not fool around with such serious words. Having seen the film, I believe the American Jews who have admonished their fellow Jews to see the film before condemning it are right.”

“It should be clear that what weighs upon Christ and reduces him to that state is not the fault of this person or that person, but rather the sins of all mankind, without exception,” he adds. ¿Isn’t the John who takes Mary into his care a Jew? Are not the devout Veronica, the impetuous Simon of Cyrene, the women of Jerusalem who weep with desperation, and Peter, who after forgiven, would die for the Master, all Jews?”

“This work, says Gibson, made bitter by those who aggressively sought to stop it, intends to propose anew the message of a God who is Love. And what kind of Love would this be if it excluded someone?”, concludes Messori.

Gibson’s film is a “gift from God”: Archbishop Donoghue

ATLANTA, USA, Febrary 23 2004 (CNA) - Mel Gibson’s film about the Passion of Christ is a “gift from God” that will help make Lent and Easter more meaningful this year, said Archbishop John F. Donoghue in a letter he addressed to the faithful of Atlanta Feb. 10.

“I believe that all people should see this film. And as your bishop, I would urge all Catholics of the Archdiocese of Atlanta to see this film,” he wrote, adding that those who view it will inevitably be changed.

“It will not leave you the same person you were before — you will never again not be able to picture the scope of our Lord's suffering, and the terrible price He paid in order to save us,” he continued.

He called the Ash Wednesday release of The Passion of The Christ “a special event, which can help to make this Lent unlike any before, and perhaps, change us permanently, in the way we visualize and attempt to share in the great love our Lord has shown us.”

He also complemented Gibson on an “amazing cast” and “cinematography that elevates this film to a place among the greatest ever made.”

The archbishop told the faithful that, after a lengthy conversation with Gibson last summer, he is “completely convinced” that Gibson’s motive in making this film was religious, and that it represents the filmmaker’s “sincere faith and devotion

Open Letter to Mel Gibson from a Jew for Jesus Dear Mel (is it OK if I call you Mel?),

I hope you won't feel like this letter is an intrusion, but with all the flack you are experiencing right now over "The Passion," I just had to write. This ordeal has to be tough for you to take. All the controversy, I mean. But then you're probably not completely surprised. Anytime anyone makes a statement about Y'shua (Jesus) they stir up a controversy. When he walked the earth, no one could take him lightly. Some were attracted to him and not only believed him but loved him as a best friend. Others were suspicious and all they could let themselves feel was fear or hatred—and if his statements were untrue, who could blame them? After all, Jesus did make some incredible (some might say outlandish) claims:

He claimed to be the Messiah:

See his conversation with a woman: "The woman said, 'I know that Messiah' (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.' Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he" (John 4:25,26).

He claimed he could forgive people of their sins:

See his conversation with a paralyzed man: "Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you" (Matthew 9:2).

He claimed he had the same eternal nature and name as the Almighty:

See his conversation with Jewish leaders: "Then the Jewish leaders said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:57-8).

Whether or not people believed his claims, Jesus just said and did the things we might expect the Messiah to say and do. That did cause an uproar, ultimately leading to his crucifixion. Which brings me back to your movie. Maybe you didn't expect quite such an uproar for just making this film. Maybe you thought that people wouldn't get all that upset. Please try to understand. It's just that over the years, many so-called "Christians" have blamed my Jewish people for Jesus' death. The hatred and persecution we've endured as a result is tragic, and that's made some Jews very defensive when it comes to the subject of the Passion. As a committed believer in Jesus, I'm sure you recognize that such hatred is the antithesis of what the New Testament teaches, what Jesus intended and what your film portrays. Am I not right? Besides, you and I both know that this "blame game" really misses the point.

After all, the Hebrew Scriptures predicted that the Messiah would die for the sins of others.

"He was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due" (Isaiah 53:8).

Not only that, but the crucifixion didn't take Jesus by surprise—it was the whole reason God sent him on this necessary but horrific mission.

"No one takes it (my life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself." (John 10:18) "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Most importantly, Jesus did not stay dead.

"Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him" (Mark 16:6).

So how can anyone be blamed for the death of a person who is in fact alive? Messiah's willing sacrifice and resurrection bring hope to a world that is desperately in need of some good news. Jesus stands ready to be our helper and redeemer and friend! Not everyone wants to hear that. Maybe they've never read the records of his life for themselves. Or maybe they've heard things about Jesus that are wrong. Whatever the case, I just want to tell you to hang in there, Mel. There are lots of us Jewish people who are grateful that you made this film. Because of "The Passion," this important topic is being discussed passionately—and that's a good thing.

Sincerely, Susan Perlman A Jew for Jesus

P.S. If anyone else happens to be reading this letter and would like to talk further about the Passion of the Messiah, check out the message board at www.jewsforjesus.org or write to the address on this letterhead.

Jews for Jesus • 60 Haight Street • San Francisco, CA 94102www.jewsforjesus.org

 
 

The Passion of the Christ: See It, Slam It, or Skip It? by: Brian Butler

The media is decrying Mel Gibson and vehemently attacking his film, The Passion of the Christ. Teens and their parents are confused. Is this movie good for teenagers to see, or not?

I had the opportunity to see the film at a screening in Los Angeles, at Gibson’s Icon Productions, and walked away a different person. I already had deep faith, but it deepened in the span of two powerful hours. I already knew the story of Christ, but my appreciation for His sacrifice and realization of its impact on my life was more profound than ever before. I was so touched that I had to make this experience available to young people who I teach and to whom I minister. On Ash Wednesday, I’m taking 200 of them to see the film. Why? Here are 5 reasons we should make sure our youth see The Passion of the Christ.

1. Gibson’s film teaches love, not anti-Semitism. Is Gibson’s film anti-Semitic? Not even close. In my opinion, Gibson goes out of his way to show that the Jewish people are NOT collectively guilty of Christ’s death. He even adds a few lines (that are not biblical) that clearly suggest that Christ’s arrest and trial were unfair and not supported by the entire council of Jewish Rabbis. This portrayal is an attempt to show that only some ill intentioned leaders pushed for Christ to be sent before Pilate. When speaking to a leader of the Jewish Federation in New Orleans last week, I explained that he had nothing to fear about this movie. If anything, Jewish people will benefit from this film! Why? The last thing that anyone who sees this movie will want is to be violent to anyone else. In addition, when Christians see this film, it will undoubtedly inspire them to become more Christian, i.e. more loving and less anti-Semitic. True Christians are not anti-Semites. This film will help teens to become better Catholics who are more loving, not worse Catholics who are more hateful.

2. Is the movie too violent for teenagers? I don’t think so. Many teens I know saw the movie Saving Private Ryan with the permission of their parents. The first 35 minutes were intensely violent in an effort to depict the gruesome reality of the Normandy beach invasion. What’s the difference? The Passion’s violence centers on one man who we love very much, and some of the violent scenes last a long time. To be sure, it is painful to watch. However, my appreciation for Christ’s sacrifice grew immensely as I watched, just as my appreciation for my grandfather and his WWII military service grew after watching Saving Private Ryan. He told me war stories, but when they came to life on the screen, they impacted me in a greater way. Caution! Teens should not see this movie alone, and they should absolutely be given a proper and immediate chance to be able to think in silence, pray, process, and discuss the film. Because of the intensity and length of the violence, if possible, parents should see the film with their teens, and I would encourage parents to see it by themselves before deciding if it is appropriate for children under 13.

3. Teens have heard the story, but they’ve never experienced it like this. For years, teens have constantly told me that they know that Jesus died for everyone’s sins. They have trouble, however, believing that Jesus really died for them. For them, the personal connection is hardest to make. Teens often ask me if I think it would have been easier to believe had I lived in Jesus’ day and seen his miracles. This movie takes teens into an “up-close-and-personal” experience of the passion of Christ in a way never made possible before. They have an opportunity to enter into, through a beautiful work of art, the powerful and historical moments when Jesus actually paid for their salvation. Seeing those moments through Gibson’s realistic portrayal will give them more to reflect upon and pray about than they have ever had before. This movie truly makes Christ’s sacrifice real and unforgettable.

4. Teenagers need hope. The Passion will bring it to them. While it focuses on the death of Christ, everything in the movie points towards true life, and the light of eternal hope shines through the eyes of Jesus and Mary in this film. Our teens see the destruction and pain in our society, and they are confused about how God can allow such pain and evil to take place in our world. When they see the stark depiction of evil and pain in this film, it only sets off more brilliantly the stark contrast of the amazing light of Christ’s love that “shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

5. This is the perfect opportunity for faith education. The curiosity of teenagers is peaked, readying thousands who would not normally go to Mass, a youth group, or a campus ministry function to be touched by God’s grace. Teens hate being uninformed, and they relish it when we “shoot straight” with them. Very soon, they will inevitably be thrust into conversations about the movie – and consequently – conversations about the Catholic faith. What will they think if they never see the film? They won’t know what to think, so they just might believe the media. This is a movie that will grip teens and drive them to consider new faith questions they previously avoided thinking about. The Passion is chock-full of beautiful Catholic symbolism and theological connections. It is so much more than just a violent film. It creates an ideal perch from which to dive into the theology of the Catholic faith and teens will want to take the plunge. We can’t deny them this opportunity to see a masterful piece of art that brings their faith to life.

This film could become the sheepfold through which a new generation of young Catholic sheep walks to begin their search for truth about Christ and His Church. Won’t you take advantage of this golden opportunity to get your teenagers face to face with Christ and the reality of His love for them?

Brian Butler Director of Religious Formation - Archbishop Rummel High School Co-founder - Dumb Ox Productions, LLC www.dumboxproductions.com

Alternate Reason:

6. Our culture is saturated with relativism. This movie will help teens fight it. The Passion of the Christ shows that our Catholic faith is built around the power of Christ’s love. Our faith is about commitment and about holding fast to what is good, no matter what the cost. Christ willingly stood firm, and continuously, through extreme physical and emotional pain, decided to love us and willingly sacrifice himself for us. His sacrifice is the epitome of self-gift, and Gibson’s film shows that in a powerful way. It visually demonstrates to us that true love is not love unless it is freely given. This flies in the face of our relativistic and selfish society that tells our teens to do whatever makes them feel good and to avoid pain at all costs. We are called to love as Christ loved. The Passion allows teens to see and feel the love of Christ in a unique and powerful way.

 
 
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