Prelate's Assault on "Tomb of Jesus"

Archbishop Forte Says Discovery Is False

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ROME, MARCH 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The alleged discovery of the tomb of Jesus is really just an attempt to put into question Christ's resurrection, said the archbishop-theologian of Chieti-Vasto.



Archbishop Bruno Forte, a member of the International Theological Commission, made these comments to ZENIT regarding James Cameron's documentary "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," produced in collaboration with Simcha Jacobovici.

The documentary is scheduled to be broadcast on the Discovery Channel this Sunday. It claims that Jesus' burial site has been found and suggests that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and had a son.

Archbishop Forte, the president of the Italian episcopal conference's Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: "In fact there is talk of ancient tombs, some from the first century, discovered in the neighborhood of Talpiot, at the beginning of the 1980s, on which are engraved some names, such as those of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Matthew. This is the factual data.

"However, there are many such tombs in the territory of the Holy Land. Hence, there is nothing new in this revelation."

The archbishop said that there is so much noise surrounding the documentary's airing because the media "wanted to launch a scoop. Given the success of operations such as 'The Da Vinci Code,' an attempt has been made to produce a similar success, playing with the real question at stake, namely, if Jesus is really risen."

"In fact, the thesis launched is that if Jesus is buried there with his family, then the resurrection would be no more than an invention of his disciples," he noted.

The archbishop continued: "However, leaving to one side the inconsistency of the archaeological proof, which has been utterly contested by Israeli archaeologists, the factual event of Jesus' resurrection is rigorously documented in the New Testament by the five accounts of the apparitions: four of the Gospels and St. Paul's."

"All critical studies in these two centuries have shown that in the profound truth of the accounts of the apparitions there is non-debatable historicity," he said.

A historical encounter

Archbishop Forte said: "There is a vacuum between Good Friday, when the disciples abandoned Jesus, and Easter Sunday, when they became witnesses of the Risen One, with a drive and courage that impelled them to proclaim the good news to the ends of the earth, even to giving their lives for him.

"What happened? The profane historian cannot explain it. The Gospels imply it: There was an encounter that changed their lives.

"And this encounter, recounted in the passages of the apparitions, is characterized by an essential fact: The initiative is not from the disciples, but from him who is alive, as the book of the Acts of the Apostles states."

"This means that it isn't something that happens in the disciples but something that happens to them," said Archbishop Forte.

"Beginning with this fact," he said, "in the course of history Christ has been proclaimed with a drive that has involved geniuses of thought, not visionaries, from Augustine of Hippo to Thomas Aquinas, down to Teresa of Calcutta, to give three examples."

Finally, Archbishop Forte asked: "Why is the media so interested in keeping Jesus in its sights?

"Obviously because, in the depths of the West's culture, and not just of the West, Jesus is such a decisive and important point of reference, that everything that affects him affects us."

Credibility

Another scholar, Father Thomas Rosica, director of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, also commented to ZENIT on the documentary, saying that the fact that it has made such an impact leads one to question the professionalism of the media.

He said: "What is most troubling about this recent publicity stunt of Jesus' burial place, and the alleged DNA findings of Jesus and his family, is that the media have spilled so much ink and wasted so much space on utter nonsense."