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Greek Orthodox Observations on The Passion of Christ

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  • Fr. John-Brian
    February 27, 2004 Observations by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America On Mel Gibson s film THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST The recent release of Mel Gibson s
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2004
      February 27, 2004

      Observations by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
      On Mel Gibson's film THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

      The recent release of Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ," has
      evoked significant reaction from people of all faiths across America and
      throughout the world. In part, the controversy stems from the fact that
      the film, which focuses almost exclusively on the last hours of our Lord's
      earthy life, makes use of extremely graphic violence. In addition, many
      have expressed concern that the film might create anti-Semitic
      feelings. In light of these controversies, and in response to numerous
      inquiries, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America offers the following

      Already, some of our own Hierarchs have issued statements regarding Mr.
      Gibson's film. One of these statements, from our Metropolis of Chicago,
      criticizes the film for including a significant amount of material not
      found in the Gospel accounts of Christ's arrest, trial and crucifixion, and
      expresses regret that the message of Jesus is apparently reduced to His
      sufferings. Another statement, from our Metropolis of Boston, acknowledges
      the possibility that the film may lead the viewer "to reflect deeply on the
      pain of Christ"s passion. Elsewhere in the world, Orthodox Christian
      leaders have expressed dismay at the emotionalism produced by the film,
      which contrasts with the sobriety of the Orthodox hymnology and art of the
      Holy Week services.

      With every passing hour, more and more Orthodox clergymen of various
      jurisdictions are registering their own approval or criticism on parish
      websites or personal weblogs or Orthodox Internet discussion
      groups. Clearly, Orthodox Christians, like other persons from communities
      of faith throughout our country, have articulated a wide range of
      experiences and reactions to this work of cinematic art.

      In the days and weeks to come, millions of people of every faith and people
      of no faith will experience this movie, and Christians in particular will
      be challenged to answer for themselves many questions, including the
      following: Is the violence in the film appropriate or excessive? Does it
      enhance faith, or does it detract from it? Does the supplemental material
      used in the film, not present in any of the Gospels, create confusion and
      conflict within the minds and the hearts of the viewers? Does the movie
      seem to single out a particular people for blame, or does it implicate all
      of humankind in the death of Christ? Is the relentless focus on the
      physical sufferings of Christ excessive?

      We have already heard many different answers to these and similar
      questions. However, despite the lack of consensus, we rejoice in the fact
      that questions such as these are being discussed in a variety of forums,
      public and private. Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of Mr. Gibson's
      film (which in the final analysis is a personal expression of a particular
      tradition of piety), it has raised to national and international attention
      matters of vital spiritual significance, bringing to mind the words of St.
      Paul to the Philippians: "Whether in pretense or in truth, in every way,
      Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice" (1:18).

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