Cardinal Kasper on Passion of the Christ

News - April 2004News in Christian-Jewish Relations: April 2004


Cardinal Kasper comments on The Passion of the Christ


In an interview given to Aviad Kleinberg described in an April 6, 2004 article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, offered some remarks on the Mel Gibson film, The Passion of the Christ. Other than the pope, Cardinal Kasper is Catholic Church's official voice on matters pertaining to Catholic-Jewish relations, and so his observations about the movie are of particular interest.  


Although reluctant to enter the controversy around the film, the Cardinal, when pressed by Kleinberg, made some specific observations about the film, which he had seen. "This is not a Catholic Church film," as Kleinberg paraphrases Kasper's remarks. TheCardinal "was shocked by the [film's] cruelty and violence," and while he does not think that the film is anti-Semitic, Kasper feels "it could stir anti-Semitism."  


This is similar to a conclusion of an American team of Catholic and Jewish scholars who had evaluated the movie's shooting script a year ago at the request of Dr. Eugene Fisher of the U.S. Bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.  


During his interview with Kleinberg, Cardinal Kasper reiterated that "the Church has repeatedly expressed its reservations about every form of anti-Semitism," including through a recently published joint statement by German bishops and German Jewish leaders.  When asked about the recent increase in anti-Semitic acts, Kasper expressed his great distress. "The Church is opposed to any form of racism, and the attacks on Jews and Judaism are worse than simple racism - they are equivalent to an attack on the Church itself, as Judaism is the mother of Christianity," narrates Kleinberg. "Kasper recall[ed] the Pope's visit to the synagogue in Rome in 1986, when John Paul II declared that 'the Jewish religion is not external to us, but in a certain sense it is part of our religion. With Judaism we have a relationship that we have with no other religion. You are beloved brothers; it can even be said that you are our elder brothers.'"  


There is an urgent need for education in the Catholic Church's new perspectives on Jews and Judaism, said the Cardinal. "The Church is trying to spread the new views."   

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