'The Passion of The
Christ' Gets Mixed Reaction in German Speaking Europe
By Wolfgang Polzer
Assist News Service
OBERLIN / VIENNA (ANS) -- Mel Gibson's movie The Passion
of the Christ has evoked mixed reactions among church leaders
in German speaking Europe. While some bishops who saw previews are
stunned, others are critical of the amount of violence. The movie
-- already a blockbuster in the USA -- will be shown in German and
Austrian theaters from March 18.
Bishop Wolfgang Huber of Berlin, leader of the main line Protestant
Churches in Germany, describes the R-rated movie as both powerful
and violent. While the suffering of Jesus should never be minimized
it was also problematic to maximize the amount of cruelty already
shown in the media. This could only end in a spiral of cruelty, said
Huber in the light of the terrorist attacks in Madrid.
Huber's deputy, the Thuringian Bishop Christoph Kaehler, is impressed
with the "mighty movie". He was not shocked but awe-struck
Kaehler told Christian newspapers. While he would not recommend the
movie to young people he had not observed one scene that glorified
Kaehler also rejected allegations that Gibson's movie is anti-Semitic,
because - as some Jewish observers see it -- it blames the Jews for
Jesus' death. In the Bishop's eyes the movie compares well with works
of composer Johann Sebastian Bach or painter Lukas Cranach.
The Protestant Church in Austria rejects the movie completely. Bishop
Herwig Sturm of Vienna: "This movie shows no mercy in its depiction
of Christ's suffering. Neither does it show compassion for the audience."
The Lutheran church officer Michael Buenker and his reformed counterpart
Peter Karner condemn what they see as a "sado-masochistic glorification
The German Catholic Bishops were also mildly critical of the violence
in the movie. In their eyes it falls short of the biblical message.
The Vatican's spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls rejected the allegation
of anti-Semitism. If the movie was anti-Semitic then so are the Gospels.
The President of the Papal Media Council, John Foley, could not detect
the slightest hint of anti-Semitism.
The former vice-president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany,
Michel Friedman, warns that the movie may damage Christian-Jewish
relations. It was a relapse into the Middle Ages, said the attorney
who made headlines last year with his involvement in a drug and prostitution
Wolfgang Polzer (53), is senior news editor of the Evangelical News
Agency idea, Wetzlar (Germany), which he joined in 1981. His previous
work included four years in the editorial department of the Salvation
Army in Germany. In all, he has spent 27 years in Christian media. Wolfgang
became a Christian at age 25, having gone through a deep personal crisis.
He is married to Ute; they have two children: Julia (20) and Jan (19).
He can be contacted by e-mail at: [email protected]
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