Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos on Mel Gibson's "The Passion"

Calls It a Tool for Explaining the Person and Message of Christ

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 18, 2003 ( A cardinal urged the public to see Mel Gibson’s film «The Passion,» which depicts the suffering and death of Jesus.

After seeing an unfinished version of the film, which will be released next year, Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, gave his opinion on the film, in an interview published today in Turin’s newspaper La Stampa.

The spokesman of the Jewish community in Rome, Riccardo Pacifici, after reading the cardinal’s statements, added: «We are optimistic.»

«The Catholic Church assumed in this connection a very clear position in 1964, canceling from the whole Jewish people the accusation of having killed God,» Pacifici said. «This has meant that relations between Jews and Christians are clearly better.»

The cardinal began: «As I watched this yet unfinished version of the film, I experienced moments of profound spiritual intimacy with Jesus Christ. It is a film that leads the viewer into prayer and reflection, into heartfelt contemplation. In fact, as I told Mr. Gibson after the screening, I would gladly trade some of the homilies that I have given about the passion of Christ for even a few of the scenes of his film.»

Here is the translation of the interview.

Q: Do you have any reservations in recommending the film?

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos: I would like all our Catholic priests throughout the world to see this film. I hope all Christians will be able to see it, and all people everywhere.

Q: The film is reported to contain graphic violence. Won’t this provoke anger and hatred among viewers?

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos: In my opinion, one of the great achievements of this film is to have shown so effectively both the horror of sin and selfishness, and the redeeming power of love.

Seeing this film elicits love and compassion. It makes the viewer want to love more, to forgive, to be good and strong no matter what, just as Christ did even in the face of such terrible suffering.

Q: As prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, your responsibilities include overseeing the catechesis of Catholics worldwide. Does this film contribute positively to your work?

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos: This film is a triumph of art and faith. It will be a tool for explaining the person and message of Christ. I am confident that it will change for the better everyone who sees it, both Christians and non-Christians alike. It will bring people closer to God, and closer to one another.

Q: Some have expressed fear that Gibson’s vivid depiction of the death of Christ could spark anti-Semitism. Is there any truth to this?

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos: Anti-Semitism, like all forms of racism, distorts the truth in order to put a whole race of people in a bad light. This film does nothing of the sort.

It draws out from the historical objectivity of the Gospel narratives sentiments of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation. It captures the subtleties and the horror of sin, as well as the gentle power of love and forgiveness, without making or insinuating blanket condemnations against one group.

This film expresses the exact opposite, that learning from the example of Christ, there should never be any more violence against any other human being.

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