Date: 19th September 2003

Vatican praises Mel Gibson film

The Vatican has sprung to the defence of Mel Gibson's film about the last 12 hours of Jesus' life, rejecting claims the movie promotes anti-semitism.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos also dismissed suggestions The Passion may offend Jews.

Some Jewish leaders claim the work suggests Jews were responsible for the death of Christ, and could trigger anti-Semitic attacks.

"Anti-Semitism, like all forms of racism, distorts the truth by putting an entire race in a bad light. This film does nothing of the kind," Cardinal Hoyos said.

The Roman Catholic Church formally rejected Jewish culpability in Christ's death nearly 40 years ago.

Cardinal Hoyos, a Colombian, is prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and heads a Vatican commission that is trying to bring ultraconservatives back to the church. Gibson is a member of an ultraconservative Catholic movement.

The film is expected to be released in the spring. Gibson has defended his work as faithful to the Gospels and said it is intended to "inspire, not offend."

Source: Press Release