"The Passion" Isn't Anti-Semitic, Says Vatican Aide

Rome's Jewish Community Wanted the Film Condemned

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 11, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican spokesman says the film "The Passion of the Christ" cannot be considered anti-Semitic without also regarding the Gospel the same way.



Joaquín Navarro-Valls made this statement in response to a request from Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, who, after seeing the film Tuesday, asked that the Vatican condemn it officially.

The film "makes us go back to a period before the Second Vatican Council," the rabbi contended.

In statements published today by the Roman newspaper Il Messaggero, the director of the Vatican press office said: "The film is a cinematographic transcription of the Gospels. If it were anti-Semitic, the Gospels would also be so."

"It must not be forgotten that the film is full of 'positive' Jewish personages: from Jesus to Mary, from the Cyrenian to Veronica, including the moved crowd, etc.," Navarro-Valls stressed.

"If such a story were anti-Semitic, it would pose a problem for the Judeo-Christian dialogue, because it would be like saying that the Gospels are not historical," he said. "One must realize the seriousness of these affirmations."

That there have been no official statements does not mean that the Church condemns the film, Navarro-Valls said.

In fact, he said, the film "has nothing anti-Semitic about it. Otherwise, it would have been criticized" by the Pope and by his aides in the Holy See. The Holy Father saw the movie in December.

Navarro-Valls referred to a Vatican II declaration that pronounces itself against anti-Semitism.

"The declaration 'Nostra Aetate' was issued by the Catholic Church and, if it has not reacted in this case, it means that it has seen no reason to do so," he explained. "Otherwise, the hierarchy would have spoken out -- either the Vatican or the local episcopates."

Navarro-Valls revealed that some time ago, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, came to Rome to make contacts in the Vatican on the issue.

"Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, replied: 'I don't see anything in this film that can be considered as anti-Semitic,'" the Vatican spokesman continued.

"The secretary of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Father Norbert Hofmann, explained to [Foxman] that the Church has pronounced itself against anti-Semitism with the declaration 'Nostra Aetate,'" he concluded.