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Episcopal Church endorses guide to new film

Posted on: February 20, 2004 9:07 AM
Related Categories: USA

A guide from the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) to a new film about the last days of Jesus Christ, has been endorsed by the Episcopal Church's ecumenical and interfaith officer as a helpful guide to congregations viewing the controversial film. Called “The Passion of the Christ” and directed by Mel Gibson, the film is to open at cinemas on Ash Wednesday (25 February).

"This study guide is…consistent with our approach to such matters," said the Rt Revd Bishop Christopher Epting, deputy to the Presiding Bishop for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. "We don't believe in censoring such things, or advising our people not to view them, but to reflect on them within the community of faith. I would encourage Episcopal congregations to consider making this material available."

"The Passion of the Christ," has already generated both rave reviews and controversy. The NCC Interfaith Relations Commission, which issued the guide, does not comment on the film but offers viewers a framework in which to see the film and to discuss it with their families and congregations.

The NCC said that the guide recognised that the story of Christ's Passion was deeply meaningful to Christians and that dramatic depictions of the Passion story could be a powerful experience of faith. But it added that such depictions also had a tragic history that had sometimes led to the labelling of Jews as "Christ-killers" and to acts of violence.

"Many Christian and Jewish leaders are concerned that this movie might set back decades of Jewish-Christian relations," the guide notes. The NCC Interfaith Relations Commission has recently expressed its desire to foster genuine and constructive Christian-Jewish dialogue.

The guide reminds its readers that Jesus was born and lived as a Jew and encourages Christians to read at least two Gospel accounts of the Passion along with commentary on the religious and political context of the Gospel writers. It also asks movie viewers to consider specific steps to build or strengthen relationships with Jewish people and institutions.

Mel Gibson recently stated on the US TV show Primetime that “The Passion of the Christ” was not anti-Semitic. “To be anti-Semitic is to be un-Christian,” he said, adding that he had been shocked by the criticism of the film, which is to be shown with subtitles to the Aramaic and Latin dialogue.

The guide is available on the NCC's web site at:

http://www.ncccusa.org/pdfs/passionfilmguide.pdf

Article from: Episcopal News Service and ACNS