Bishop Crispian Hollis on 'The Passion of the Christ'

 Bishop Crispian Hollis, who has seen the film, said: "The Passion of the Christ is a vivid and sometimes horrific portrayal of the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ.

"It is important to keep in mind that 'The Passion of the Christ' is a film and that its screenplay is no more than a version of the Gospels that lays no claim to be the Gospel.

"This film is one person's view of the Passion of Christ, albeit more or less faithfully abstracted from the Gospels, and it reflects that person's devotional experience of the redeeming love of the Christ who suffered and died for sinners.

"It represents an incomplete theological picture because it portrays little of the events that led to Jesus' arrest and condemnation and only deals with His Resurrection in a few passing moments.

"It draws on the four Gospel accounts of the Passion as well as adding some of the legendary and apocryphal stories which have been enshrined in the Stations of the Cross, a particularly Catholic and traditional devotion.

"An example of this is the person of Veronica. She and her daughter are portrayed in the film as "the women of Jerusalem", and it is Veronica again who features in the Stations as the woman who wipes the face of Jesus as he makes his painful way to Calvary.

"Some make the charge that the film is anti-Semitic. In my opinion, this charge is not sustainable. It is, however, true that the film portrays the final moments of the lethal conflict that undoubtedly developed ­ and which is recorded in the Gospels ­ between Jesus and the religious leaders of the Jewish people.

"This was a raw and bitter conflict between opposing and very different powers and to fail to portray it would have meant a very serious falsification of the Gospel accounts. But this does not make the film anti-Semitic. If that impression has been given or encouraged, then that is something which the Catholic Church very deeply regrets and deplores.

"There are many impressive features in the film but it must be stressed that this is no more than one man's view and spiritual experience of the Passion of Christ.

"This film does not speak in the name of the Christian Church any more than Pasolini's 'Gospel according to Matthew' does. Many will find it horrific and many will be moved to tears by what they see and with what they can identify in their own life's journey, and all who see it, with or without faith, will be able to experience something of suffering and death of Christ.

"For some, the film will represent an evangelistic opportunity and experience while, for others, it will simply be a vivid and violent story. Some will find their faith enhanced and strengthened by what they see but others will remain unmoved.

"The Catholic Church takes no stance and makes no judgement on the merits of the film. We neither endorse nor condemn it. It is a powerful representation of what is, for Christians, a crucial part of the greatest story ever told. However, in the end, filmgoers must judge for themselves whether this film is for them what it has clearly been for Mel Gibson, a testimony to his faith and his experience of the redeeming work of the Christ."

* This is the view on 'The Passion of The Christ' of Bishop Crispian Hollis who is Bishop of Portsmouth and chairs the Strategic Communications Committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales.
PORTSMOUTH - 29 March 2004 - 599 words

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