Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

National Director of World Youth Day 2002 Weighs in on Film

TORONTO, FEB. 8, 2004 (Zenit) - A priest who oversaw World Youth Day 2002 and its Way of the Cross through the streets of Toronto says he was overwhelmed by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, head of Salt & Light Catholic Media Foundation and the first national Catholic television Network in Canada, was invited to view Gibson's movie late last year.

Father Rosica is a trained Scripture scholar and represented the Canadian bishops' conference for nearly 10 years on the National Christian-Jewish Consultation. He shared his views about "The Passion" here.

Q: You have lived, studied and taught in the Holy Land at the École Biblique and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. You headed up World Youth Day 2002 in Canada, which had as its centerpiece the historic Way of the Cross through the center of a modern city. You certainly did not watch Gibson's movie as an outsider. What do you think of it?

Father Rosica: My first reaction was overwhelming. Having followed the extensive debate about the movie for the past year, I was interested in seeing it, but never expected the invitation to be so personal.

One of my principal colleagues at Salt & Light and I were invited by the sound production company of the film to a private showing. I was very surprised to learn that the soundtrack is being produced for the movie by a sound company located several blocks from our Salt & Light Television headquarters in downtown Toronto.

I rarely leave a theater or a film screening with a strong desire to pray and be silent. That is what I felt this morning as I returned to our offices. "The Passion" is a deeply moving presentation of the final hours of Jesus' life on earth. It is by no means a film for children.

I recommend that all those in pastoral ministry, teachers and students of Scripture, and adult Christians view this film at some point. If Gibson's desire was to allow people to draw closer to Christ through this film, he has accomplished his goal.

If Gibson wished people to experience a conversion of heart to the nonviolent message of the cross, he has accomplished that as well.

Q: What stood out for you in the movie?

Father Rosica: The film has been produced with stunning cinematography, excellent acting, fidelity to the Scriptures, attentiveness to the theological meaning of the passion and death of Christ, and extraordinary artistic and religious sensitivity.

The powerful play of light and darkness across Pilate's tortured face is far more revealing than any of the words uttered. It is as though Caravaggio himself served as the artistic and lighting director of this film.

Every single scene is richly created in order to invite the viewer deeper and deeper into the mystery. I really feel that this movie is a masterpiece of religious art of the most powerful genre. As the movie progresses, those who were simply bystanders are drawn into the heart of the story.

Among many extraordinary details, I found Gibson's use of flashback masterful. As a teacher of the Passion narratives, I am always struck by the poignant scenes of the trial, and Peter's role in these Gospel accounts.

In this movie, the haunting flashback to Christ and Peter produces a special effect. The camera captures the face of Christ in profile, while Peter gazes upon us. Christ's excruciating suffering is punctuated by flashbacks to his washing the feet of his apostles in loving service. There are so many subtle ways in which the bystanders in this movie become the protagonists in an instant.

One of my great mentors and professors was the late Father Raymond Brown, S.S., who taught me the "Death of the Messiah" at the Biblicum in Rome. Brown demonstrated that, while there are some differences among the Passion accounts, they are in substantial agreement overall.

It is important to remember that Mel Gibson's film is not a documentary but a work of creative imagination. He incorporates elements from the four Passion narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but remains faithful to the fundamental structure common to all four Gospel accounts.

Gibson has done nothing to remove the brutality from the Passion story. In fact he has no intention to sugarcoat the Passion story with pietism or a false spirituality. The viewer is forced to look at the raw facts and events, and witness the suffering of a just man.

The more brutal the scenes become, the more powerful are the flashback moments of Jesus teaching on the Mount of the Beatitudes, Jesus identifying himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus offering his life in the bread and wine of the last supper.

One scene, in particular, was very moving. As Jesus falls on the Way of the Cross, there is a flashback to his falling on a Jerusalem street as a child, and his mother running out of the house to pick him up. The interplay of Mary and Jesus in this film is moving, and reaches its apex in the scene of the Pietŕ.

The Mother of the Lord is inviting each of us to share her grief and behold her Son. It is what we tried to do on the Way of the Cross in the heart of the city during World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. This scene was an incredibly powerful moment for us as well. In fact, those who discouraged us from such a public presentation of the Stations of Cross during World Youth Day 2002 were not from outside the Church!

After that magnificent presentation on Toronto's University Avenue in July, 2002, among the thousands of letters and messages we received were those from people of other faiths who simply said: "If only we could do something like this for our own young people and teach them about the core of our faith."

Q: To what do you attribute all the opposition to Gibson's film?

Father Rosica: Ignorance, an obsession with being politically correct, a poor understanding of true interfaith relations, and an unwillingness to come to grips with the cold facts and ambiguous nature of Jesus' trial and execution.

I must also admit that Christians and Jews who fail to deal with the Scriptures in a mature way, and simply promote a false irenicism and ignorance of history, do not help to build bridges and repair the real damage of anti-Semitism which is alive once again in the world.

The old adage that "those who don't know speak, and those who know don't speak" can certainly be applied to all the ink spilled over this film. I have heard heated debates among people who have no idea what the film is about.

Q: As one who has been deeply involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue for many years, do you think that the film is anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish?

Father Rosica: No, it is not at all anti-Semitic nor anti-Jewish. The film neither exaggerates nor downplays the role of Jewish authorities and legal proceedings in the condemnation of Jesus.

Without a doubt the figure of Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest is a villain. But it is very important to realize that Caiaphas in the Scriptures represented the regime of the time and not the Jewish people.

The film should serve as a springboard into deepening our knowledge of the Scriptures, our love of Jesus Christ, our understanding of the historic reconciliation of Christians and Jews, especially since Vatican II and under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, and an analysis of the true causes of anti-Semitism, and its reappearance in the world today.

It think it is very unfortunate that many voices within the Church, not to speak of those from outside the Church, have already condemned the film before even seeing it on the grounds that it is anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish. If the movie does anything, it compels even the most distant and dispassionate viewer to deepen his or her understanding of the story of the Jesus' passion and death.

Jews and Romans of that time were involved in the condemnation, trial and execution of Jesus. That is a fact of history. Anyone who tries to rewrite history or rewrite the Gospel stories of Jesus' suffering and death is unfaithful to history and very dishonest in applying lessons of the past to contemporary situations.

Isn't the real issue arising from this film that many political and even religious authorities throughout history have persecuted individuals with revolutionary ideas?

The Gospel passion narratives recount how the sins of all these people at the time of Jesus conspired to bring about the passion and death of Christ, and thereby suggest the fundamental truth that we are all to blame. Their sins and our sins bring Christ to the cross, and he bears them willingly.

And we must learn from what happened to Jesus and ask ourselves not only about the identity of those who tried, condemned and killed him long ago, but also what killed Jesus -- and what vicious circles of violence, brutality and hatred continue to crucify him today in his brothers and sisters of the human family.

I read somewhere that Maia Morgenstern, the Jewish actress who masterfully plays the part of Mary, said that "The Passion" opposes oppression and violence. "It is about letting people speak openly about what they think and believe. It denounces the madness of violence and cruelty, which if unchecked can spread like a disease."

Q: What were your sentiments as you left the screening room of "The Passion"? You saw it on the eve of Christmas ...

Father Rosica: At the end of such a provocative movie, and on the eve of the birth of the Prince of Peace, I am left with some questions.

In Gibson's "Passion," the "great high priest" is Jesus, the Child of Bethlehem who becomes the "Ecce Homo" of Jerusalem, not at all one distant from us and our condition, but one who sympathizes with us and suffers with us, for he has experienced our weakness and pain, even our temptations.

I must ask myself if am I a priestly person like he was? Do I live for others and spend my life for others? Is the world any less violent, hostile and brutal, and any more patient, kind and just, because of me? Do I stand on the side of truth? Or am I afraid to reveal my faith in Jesus and my fidelity to the Gospel?

"The Passion" compels me to reflect on the cost of discipleship.

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

Passion, Mel Gibson, Movie, Review

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 250 of 4,719

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Priestly Identity: Crisis and Renewal (Part 1)
Catholic Online

Al Qaeda...afraid of Benedict's message!
Hugh McNichol

Benedict XVI...calling all to hope...
Hugh McNichol

Perfect Women
Cheryl Dickow

Papal Palm Sunday Address - 'Enough With the Bloodshed'
Catholic Online

Spotlight on China
Catholic Online

Papal Homily for Palm Sunday
Catholic Online

Holy Week...Holy Time!
Hugh McNichol

Mary and Motherhood
Cheryl Dickow

The Void
Paul Sposite

Islamic violence wounds the global community!
Hugh McNichol

The Seven New Deadly Sins!
Hugh McNichol

Catholic benefits include Catholic principles!
Hugh McNichol

Remembering Father Alfred Kunz
Matt C. Abbott

David vs Goliath
Theresa Lisiecki

Happy Lent!
Paul Sposite

Diplomacy...Vatican style!
Hugh McNichol

Sub umbra Petri! (Under the Shadow of Saint Peter)
Hugh McNichol

Cuba...a neonascent Church!
Hugh McNichol

Kids in Conflict
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On the Writings of St. Augustine
Catholic Online

The Relevance of Lourdes at 150
Catholic Online

Hillary...what would Saint Norbert say!
Hugh McNichol

Lent...questions, answers and involvement!
Hugh McNichol

Mary, Mother of all Humanity, Hic et Nunc!
Hugh McNichol

Catholics...WAKE UP!
Hugh McNichol

Catholic Brotherhood with the People of the Covenant
Hugh McNichol

Have mercy on us O Lord! - Ash Wednesday
Hugh McNichol

Vote early, vote Catholic!
Hugh McNichol

Christ, our global Alpha and Omega!
Hugh McNichol

Being Catholic means...total affirmation of being Catholic!
Hugh McNichol

Seeing the World through New Eyes
Sarah Reinhard

Emulating the Angelic Doctor!
Hugh McNichol

Priests defend, commend Archbishop Raymond Burke
Matt C. Abbott

Saint Paul...a continued example of radical conversion!
Hugh McNichol

A renaissance of faith, reason and global cooperation....
Hugh McNichol

Cardinal Rigali's Homily at Life Vigil
Catholic Online

Angelus: On Christian Unity
Catholic Online

Silencing the Pope
Catholic Online

Papal Homily on Feast of Christ's Baptism
Catholic Online

Education and Gender
Catholic Online

The ignominy of Roe vs. Wade
Hugh McNichol

Papal Message for World Day of the Sick
Catholic Online

Angelus: On Christian Unity
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Planned Lecture at La Sapienza
Catholic Online

Pope's Letter to Jesuits' 35th General Congregation
Catholic Online

Fr. Cantalamessa - Behold, the Lamb of God!
Catholic Online

That We May Be One, and Never Lose Heart
Catholic Online

Sowing Hope in Sierra Leone
Catholic Online

God-incidences are the gift of kairos moments
Mary Regina Morrell

St. Augustine's Last Days
Catholic Online

Liturgy: When There's a Medical Emergency
Catholic Online

Marriage and Celibacy: Love's Link
Catholic Online

Developing a Global Catholic Awareness
Hugh McNichol

Rooms in My Father's House
Cheryl Dickow

Resolutions for New Year 2008
Chris Anthony

Keep teaching Holy Father!!!
Hugh McNichol

Dangers of anti-Catholic academic extremism....
Hugh McNichol

The liturgy war
Matt C. Abbott

Some Answers to a Few Common Questions about Vocations
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Developing a Global Catholic Awareness
Hugh McNichol

Christmas reflections
Chris Anthony

The Lasting Contribution of The Servant of God Pope John Paul II
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

No more bobble-head Jesus'!
Hugh McNichol

Pope's Address to Baptist World Alliance
Catholic Online

The Virgin Without Sin
Catholic Online

Cardinal Vingt-Trois on His New Mission
Catholic Online

Archbishop Forte on Religion & Freedom: Part 1
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Chromatius of Aquileia, Pope, Benedict
Catholic Online

Pope's Address for Consistory of Cardinals
Catholic Online

Trafficking in Lives
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict - On Hope
Catholic Online

The Hidden Costs of Gambling
Catholic Online

A Vital, Life-Giving Message
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Christianity's Contribution
Catholic Online

Youth and Fashion's Modest Twist
Catholic Online

Papal Homily at the Consistory
Catholic Online

Love, Marriage and Happy Kids
Catholic Online

The Virtue of Obedience: Our Duty, Our Crown
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Vere dignum et justum est!
Hugh McNichol

Pope's Address to Bishops of Kenya
Catholic Online

Democracy in Danger in Venezuela
Catholic Online

The Life-Sapping Human Virus
Catholic Online

'You Alone Are The Lord': A Brief Summary of Catholic Teaching
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Sacred Time...Come Lord Jesus!
Hugh McNichol

How Christ-like are we in our lives?
Chris Anthony

A Retreat for Today's Christian Woman
Cheryl Dickow

Pope Benedict - On Trust in God
Catholic Online

God and Caesar Seen From Down Under
Catholic Online

Praying the Luminous Mysteries for our Clergy
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Culture's Pressure on Our Girls
Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

Papal Message on the Common Good
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - St. Jerome on the Bible
Catholic Online

What Every Parent Should Know About 'The Golden Compass'
Catholic Online

Cardinal Poupard on 'Populorum Progressio'
Catholic Online

A Richer Liturgical Translation: Interview With Bishop Roche
Catholic Online

U.S. Bishops' Statement on War in Iraq
Catholic Online

The 'Golden Compass' is no treasure for children
Mary Regina Morrell

Bishop Skylstad's Address to U.S. Bishops' Fall Meeting
Catholic Online

Rewarding Failure
Catholic Online

On St. Martin of Tours
Catholic Online

Undermining Parents
Catholic Online

God...our theological E.F.Hutton!
Hugh McNichol

The Secular Vs. Religion?
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Jerome
Catholic Online

The Scourge of Poverty
Catholic Online

Sons and Daughters of God...EQUALLY!
Hugh McNichol

On Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
Catholic Online

Why Dads Matter
Catholic Online

Archbishop Chaput on Citizenship and Evangelization
Catholic Online

God Created Man for Life, Not Death
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for November
Catholic Online

Imposing 'Tolerance'
Catholic Online

A Turn to the Fathers: Interview With Father Robert Dodaro
Catholic Online

Evangelizing a Digital World
Catholic Online

Women Religious on Human Trafficking
Catholic Online

John Crosby on Von Hildebrand's Understanding of the Person
Catholic Online

Chicago law firm fights for civil rights, against death culture
Matt C. Abbott

On the Call to Martyrdom
Catholic Online

Media Benefits and Dangers
Catholic Online

Fr. Cantalamessa - The Pharisee and the Publican
Catholic Online

Aborting Viable Lives
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Ambrose of Milan
Catholic Online

'You Alone Are The Lord': A Brief Summary of Catholic Teaching
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Prostitution: Legal Work or Slavery?
Catholic Online

Address of Holy See on Religious Liberty
Catholic Online

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on 'Populorum Progressio'
Catholic Online

Escaping Poverty: Interview With Archbishop Silvano Tomasi
Catholic Online

Christ's Parable About the Need to Pray Always
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Eusebius of Vercelli
Catholic Online

Recovering subtle signs of our Catholic Identity!
Hugh McNichol

On Peace, Missions and Justice
Catholic Online

Congratulations to His Eminence John Cardinal Foley!
Hugh McNichol

Giving Ourselves Completely to Mary
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

The 'Courage' to go 'Beyond Gay'
Matt C. Abbott

When Bioethics Turned Secular
Catholic Online

Confession Comeback
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On Hilary of Poitiers
Catholic Online

Reemergence of Global Catholic Identity!
Hugh McNichol

Father Cantalamessa on the Leap of Faith
Catholic Online

Month of the Rosary
Catholic Online

Why Technology Needs Ethics
Catholic Online

Cardinal Lozano Barragán on Future of Health Care
Catholic Online

How Can Catholics Understand Mary as Co-Redemprix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate?
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

New Saint Book is Visually Stunning and Filled with Detail
Lisa M. Hendey

Papal Homily in Velletri
Catholic Online

Wednesday'a Audience - On St. Cyril of Alexandria
Catholic Online

Father Cantalamessa Analyzes Relationship
Catholic Online

Holy See Address to U.N. General Assembly
Catholic Online

Homily From Red Mass in Washington
Catholic Online

Pope Remembers Cardinal Van Thuân
Catholic Online

The brave monks of Myanmar
Chris Anthony

Faith in Politics
Catholic Online

On Lazarus and World Hunger
Catholic Online

Fighting the Good Fight: Resisting Temptation
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Media frenzy buries U.N. goals

Holy See Statement on Climate Change
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On Chrysostom's Social Doctrine
Catholic Online

China's Seven Sorrows
Catholic Online

Vatican Message to Muslims for Ramadan
Catholic Online

Father Cantalamessa on the First World and Lazarus
Catholic Online

Angels, God's Messengers in a world of fragile peace and Broken promises!
Hugh McNichol

Memo to Mrs. Clinton: Why Not Baby Bonds When Life Begins?
Deacon Keith Fournier

Reorienting the Mass
Catholic Online

Report Card on Religious Freedom
Catholic Online

On Wealth and Poverty
Catholic Online

A Response to Hitchens' 'God Is Not Great'
Catholic Online

Vetoing children's health care?

The ideal family
Joseph Sinasac

Who does the judging?
Dennis Heaney

One mistake away

The Big House ban

In praise of the parish

Text of the USCCB statement for Respect Life Sunday 2007

The Outstanding Purity of Our Blessed Mother
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Educated flock

Religion and politics

Facing a door to the future
Dennis Heaney

A long debate

Who Are the True Progressives?
Deacon Keith Fournier

Petraeus offers a dose of reality

Insurgence
Robert Storr

Papal Address at Vespers
Catholic Online

Papal Coat of Arms Still Relevant
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Address at Heiligenkreuz Abbey
Catholic Online

On Loving Jesus as Mary Did
Catholic Online

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos on 'Summorum Pontificum'
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On the Trip to Austria
Catholic Online

Father Cantalamessa on the Joy of Fatherhood
Catholic Online

Commentary on Artificial Hydration and Nutrition
Catholic Online

Vatican on Nutrition to Patients in Vegetative State
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Q-and-A Session With Youth in Loreto
Catholic Online

Take a Risk, Follow Your Call: the challenge of a lifetime!
Sisters of Bon Secours

Papal lessons

Family matters

Lessons from a tragedy
Dennis Heaney

Shopping blues
Joseph Sinasac

Marriage Breakdown: Expensive and Divisive
Catholic Online

Her darkness was a warning

The Light of Mother Teresa's Darkness - Part 2
Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Advent Prayer HD Video
  • Daily Readings for Saturday, May 28, 2016
  • Bl. Margaret Pole: Saint of the Day for Saturday, May 28, 2016
  • Your Daily Inspirational Meme: He will never leave you
  • Woman diagnosed with 'nightmare bacteria' in US
  • WARNING: Exorcist claims demon is targeting families
  • Daily Reading for Wednesday, June 1st, 2016 HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jude 1:17, 20-25
17 But remember, my dear friends, what the apostles of our Lord Jesus ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 63:2, 3-4, 5-6
2 Thus I have gazed on you in the sanctuary, seeing your power and your ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 11:27-33
27 They came to Jerusalem again, and as Jesus was walking in the Temple, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 28th, 2016 Image

Bl. Margaret Pole
May 28: Martyr of England. She was born Margaret ... Read More