January 24, 2004
vol 15, no. 24

The Countdown Continues!

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      In anticipation of one of the greatest films impact-wise to ever open, we are counting down to Opening Day on Ash Wednesday when in theaters everywhere people will be moved by the Traditional inspiration of Mel Gibson who many see as a Hollywood movie star, but True Catholics see him as an evangelist in the purist sense. A true Apostle for the Truths and Traditions of the Church Christ founded. Mel has set on celluloid what has always been set in stone: the everlasting reminder of why Christ died for each and every one of us. We have that reminder daily in the Latin Mass when the alter Christus - the priest offers Him up as a propitiatory sacrifice in an unbloody manner to the Father for us. Prayerfully this movie will move the hearts and souls of millions to return to the Truths and Traditions of Christ's True Church. For advance tickets, see The Passion Tickets

    Posted Jan 24:

    With gratitude - A Priest Views The Passion


    Catholic Educators Resource Center 2004
    I have been a strong supporter of the film since I first learned of Gibson's project; and late last summer, I had the opportunity to spend a long evening with Jim Caviezel and hear firsthand how the impact of the film and Gibson's purpose had affected him.

    Although the film is not yet finished is its final edited form, the work is magnificent. Gibson has not only managed to present the Passion accounts of the four Gospels in a wonderfully integrated way, he has done on film what the great mission preachers of the past were able to do in their sermons: he calls forth from our hearts a response of sincere empathy and enlightened understanding. Watching the film will no doubt occasion many conversions, many returns to the Faith. Many who are searching will begin to find; perhaps even more of those who have lost the Faith or its practice will realize what and Whom they have lost. But what about the faithful? How should they respond? I believe that on the part of priests and lay people, who have read, prayed, and pondered the Gospels and meditated on the Passion for many years of their lives, the response should be, "Yes, this is it; this is what I believe, this is what I have always believed. This is what happened." In other words, Pope John Paul II's much reported reaction to the film, "It is as it was," is the truest and most accurate response to Gibson's work.

    Mel Gibson himself has called his film a work of the Holy Spirit; and that is a statement of simple faith, not of pride. He has brought to film, using his own genius and gifts, what has been "handed on to him," and rediscovered as truth in his own spiritual life. Jim Caviezel, a devout Catholic, has watched the film and said that he didn't see himself as the scenes unfolded. Both are correct; they fade away in the light of the Person whose story is told.

    There are many wonderful details in the film that will only be noticed by those who are familiar with the richness of Catholic tradition and, especially, with The Dolorous Passion, Anne Catherine Emmerich's visionary account of Our Lord's sufferings. All of these elements make the movie profoundly Marian and Eucharistic. Gibson shows that Mary's participation in her Son's sufferings is not simply that of a loving mother; it is the sharing of the "New Eve" in the Redemption accomplished by the new Adam. Her faith is so close to sight, her love so rich in pardon and understanding that she becomes a still point of peace even in the midst of the physical and moral violence of her Son's sufferings. Gibson's film will create new and unforgettable images of Mary: Mary who soaks up her Son's blood from the paving stones; Mary who runs to Him as He falls; Mary whose communion with her Son's sacrifice is as obvious as the blood on her lips and cheek at the foot of the Cross. One of the most poignant details for me was the sound of Mary's voice speaking in Aramaic and her Son's replies to her. This is something not to be missed and is one of the extraordinary ways in which the film offers us a new intimacy with Christ in His humanity as well as His divinity.

    As the film drew to its end, I could not help but think of the many misunderstandings that have arisen and the enormous outcry and publicity directed against the film and its director. There have been polemics by Catholics and by non-Catholics; the spectre of Anti-Semitism has been raised and religious journalists have questioned whether Mel Gibson should even be considered Catholic. Seeing the film is the only way to know that all these contentions and press furor are futile; the fears are groundless. The film is a work of faith and love, directed by a believing Catholic whose faith has taught him that Christ died and rose for each and every one of us. When the question is asked, "Who killed Jesus?" The answer is simple and direct: I did. My sins nailed Him to the Cross. He died there to redeem me. He laid down His life so that I should find mine. He sacrificed His human life so that I could be divinized. My hands wove the crown; my hands drove the nails. This is the answer of Catholic faith; this is Gibson's answer in his film. This cannot be appreciated by a film critic or summarized by a media spin-doctor on a talk show. It can best be realized perhaps in the short moments of stunned silence between the final curtain and the time you rise and leave the theater.

    Should we be surprised that non-Catholics and non-Christians, media pundits, and journalists have decried The Passion? Not at all. We who claim to believe have so often managed to misunderstand what has been given us, to trivialize it, to manipulate its meaning that we should not be surprised at the reaction of those who do not see with the eyes of faith.

    We have recreated Christ in our own image instead of being renewed in His. We have separated Christ from His Cross and the Cross from Christ in so many churches and in so many ways; we have relativized the Gospels and trivialized the liturgical re-enactment of the Redemption into an entertainment, adaptable to any musical taste. Francis Cardinal George of Chicago said that after seeing the film, his preaching on Christ's passion would be different this year.

    If you see the film, the way you listen to preaching may well be different, too. Christ became man so that seeing Him, we might "see the Father." This is the mission of the Church, too, as Pope John Paul II has so often reminded us: to show the Face of Christ to the world which cries out for Him. In his film, "The Passion of The Christ," a work of great skill and profound spiritual insight, Mel Gibson has succeeded in creating a true likeness, a vera icona for the men and women of the new millennium.

      THE AUTHOR: Father John Horgan is pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Vancouver, B.C. He is a fairly regular face on EWTN and is on the Executive Board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.

    Posted Jan 23:

    The Pope and Mel Gibson's Film

    The Vatican releases an ambiguous official statement on the Pope's reaction to the upcoming Mel Gibson film on the passion of Christ

    VATICAN CITY, January 22, 2004 -- Hot off the press is an "official" Vatican statement today on the Mel Gibson film. It comes from Pope John Paul II's spokesman, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, and was released in Rome this morning to journalists:

      "After consulting with the personal secretary of the Holy Father, His Excellency Mons. Stanislaw Dziwisz, I confirm that the Holy Father had the chance to view the film 'The Passion of the Christ'. The film is a cinemagraphic representation of the historical fact of the Passion of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel account. It is customary for the Holy Father not to express public judgments on artistic works, judgments that are always open to differing valutations of an esthetic character."

    Here is the original Italian of this extraordinary statement:

      "Dopo essermi consultato con il Segretario personale del Santo Padre S.E. Mons. Stanislaw Dziwisz, confermo che il Santo Padre ha avuto l'opportunita di visionare il film "The Passion of the Christ". Il film e una trasposizione cinematografica del fatto storico della Passione di Gesu Cristo secondo il racconto evangelico. E abitudine del Santo Padre non esprimere giudizi pubblici su opere artistiche, giudizi che sono sempre aperti a diverse valutazioni di carattere estetico."

    The statement, in our view, has a double purpose: it seems to respond to evident pressure to distance John Paul from any direct connection with the upcoming film, while still giving guarded support to the film.

    The statement makes clear its main message -- that the Pope does not make public judgments about "works of art" (evidently because, being of an "esthetic," and not a moral or doctrinal, nature, works of art, like films, are outside, as it were, the Pope's competence).

    But the statement does not reverse the Vatican position, expressed repeatedly in recent months -- notably by Archbishop John Foley, head of the Vatican office for Social Communications (and the man officially charged with watching cultural and cinematic developments), Cardinal Dario Castrillon-Hoyos, head of the office which oversees all Catholic priests in the world, and Monsignor Augustine Di Noia, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and thus Cardinal Jolspeh Ratzinger's number two in overseeing Church doctrine -- that the film is deeply moving, worth seeing for all people, and not anti-Semitic. The statement continues this line by saying that the film is a representation of what the Gospels say occurred in the final hours of the life of Christ, i.e., that the film is not a distortion of the Gospels.

    But here's the key point: the statement stops short of saying "John Paul II did not say 'It is as it was' after viewing the film."

    Thus, the statement, which evidently is attempted to clarify a very confused situation, leaves unclear the most important question, which people are now asking all around the world: Did or did not the Pope say, after viewing the film on December 5 and 5, 2003: "It is as it was"?

    Posted Jan 22:

    Be Ready: The Passion of The Christ is a Film that will truly be life-changing

    Movie Review by Thomas Minarik

    January 21, 2004 (AgapePress) - Silence. Absolute stunned silence. Not even a whisper. Only an intermittent sniffle and a few deep sighs. That was the reaction of 50 or so guests and journalists, including myself, who watched a private screening in Washington, DC, of an unfinished version of The Passion of Christ, produced by actor Mel Gibson.

    As the movie ended and the screen went black, the audience was collectively dumbstruck at the realization that what they had watched was more than just a good story portrayed by a cast of good actors. It was much more profound than that. It was, in truth, nothing less than each viewer's personal encounter with the terrible consequence of sin -- and not someone else's sin, but his or her very own.

    The image of a remorseful Julia Marchmain comes to mind. In his novel Brideshead Revisited (a classic piece of literature which retells the story of sin, remorse and conversion), author Evelyn Waugh includes a scene in which Julia breaks into a fit of hysteria when her brother matter-of-factly tells her she is "living in sin" with her lover. For the first time in her life, the free-spirited Julia comes to grips with the ugliness of sin. In trying to explain her tears to her lover, Julia tells him that her decision to live with him in spite of the fact they are not married is indeed "my sin." She weeps bitterly because the mask she had placed over her comfortable lifestyle was ungraciously ripped off, exposing her disfigured soul, which was designed to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

    It is much the same with The Passion of Christ. But in this case, Mel Gibson plays the role of Brideshead and every member of the audience is Julia, masking our comfortable lifestyles in order to cover our sins and minimize their consequences. Like Brideshead, Gibson uses the graphic and bloody imagery of The Passion of Christ to literally rip off that mask and force us to confront the reality that it was our sins which caused the innocent Jesus to suffer so terribly.

    Throughout the movie, one by one, our sins are exposed before our riveted eyes through the actions of various persons of the Gospel: our laziness (the Apostles in the Garden); our betrayals (Judas); our denials (Peter); our lusts (the brutal scourging at the pillar); our cowardice (Pilate); our pride (the leaders of the Sanhedrin); our apathy (Herod); and our fears masqueraded as courage (the unrepentant thief on the cross). The experience is both overwhelming and shaming.

    Try as we might to resist, The Passion of Christ will not allow us to hide our eyes from the terrible, brutal and bloody consequences of our own sin. So much so that you will want to cry out to heaven, "Oh, my God, what have I done?" only to hear Our Lord say, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." And that's what makes this movie truly life-changing.

    Many noted film directors have attempted to render to celluloid the greatest story ever told. Franco Zeffirelli did a superb job with his Jesus of Nazareth. But no film retells the last 12 hours of Jesus' life like Gibson's does. The Passion of Christ is so powerful and so literal that it reaches out from the screen and grabs the viewer by the collar, shakes him and shouts, "See! This is the reality of sin!"

    No wonder Our Lord told those He forgave, including us today, to "go and sin no more!" He knew the price He would willingly pay. He would feel the sting of the soldier's whip. He would experience the pain of the punches. He would endure the torn ligaments and muscles. And ultimately He would suffer separation from the Father.

    Is the movie controversial? Without question, it is. But the real controversy isn't over the widely reported allegations of anti-Semitism. In fact, Gibson has gone the extra mile, even omitting some words of Scripture which, although historical and accurate, might give credence to the false accusations. Besides, viewers might use those words as an excuse to point the finger of blame for Christ's passion and death away from themselves and onto someone else.

    And that is precisely what The Passion of Christ will not allow any viewer to do. Mel Gibson rightly places the blame for the brutal death of Jesus squarely where it belongs -- on each of us. And that's what makes the movie controversial.

    This Lenten season, do not miss The Passion of Christ, and don't let your friends miss it. But a word of caution: When you do pick a date to view it, don't make plans to go to dinner afterward. You won't have the stomach for it. Instead, go home, find a quiet place and pray.

      This article appeared originally in the January 2004 issue of AFA Journal, and is reprinted here with permission.
    Posted Jan 21:

    Mel Gibson Rebuts Vatican Denial

    NEWSMAX.COM   Monday, Jan. 19, 2004

    Mel Gibson's spokesman issued a statement late Monday saying there is no reason to believe the Vatican's denial that the Pope commented favorably about the controversial film "The Passion of the Christ."

    Associates of Gibson quoted the pope as commenting, after viewing the film, "It is as it was."

    Since then, questions have swirled about the papal statement, and the pope's remarks angered critics of the film, who claim it will arouse anti-Semitism. The film is set for release on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday.

    On Monday, the Catholic News Service, an arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reported that the pope "never" made such a statement.

    CNS quoted the pope's longtime personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz.

    "The Holy Father told no one his opinion of this film," the archbishop told CNS. But Steve McEveety, the film's co-producer, and Jan Michelini, its assistant director, said they met Archbishop Dziwisz after the papal viewing. Dziwisz told them the pope simply commented, "It is as it was."

    Now, Dziwisz claims, "That is not true."

    "I said clearly to McEveety and Michelini that the Holy Father made no declaration," the archbishop told CNS.

    In a statement issued late Monday, Gibson's spokesman Alan Nierob stated:

    "Based on all previous correspondence and conversations held directly between representatives of the film and the official spokesperson for the Pope, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, there is no reason to believe that the Pope's support of the film 'isn't as it was'."

   See the movie trailer for Mel Gibson's phenomenal movie The Passion of The Christ. We also urge you to please support his releasing this powerful movie in the way he needs to, by being faithful to the literal words of the Gospel of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please sign the PETITION which will help this noble cause and encourage your friends and neighbors to sign as well. Help Mel fulfill Our Lord's command in Mark 16: 15-16. Traditional Catholics and committed Christians can make the difference!


    January 24, 2004
    vol 15, no. 24