Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Passions Run High as Mel Gibson's 'Christ' Film Epic Opens Here

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Passions Run High as Mel Gibson's 'Christ' Film Epic Opens Here

Article excerpt

Byline: HUGH DOUGHERTY

THE most controversial film in a generation opened in Britain today to a storm of criticism.

Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ was slammed by some of the country's most senior clergymen and by Jewish leaders as its first public viewings began in London.

The preview screening at Covent Garden's Odeon cinema was the first of a series of early openings before the movie goes on general release on Friday.

Gibson's film - which opened in the US last month - was at the top of the American box office for three weeks and has already taken [pounds sterling]177 million from cinema-goers around the world. It is expected to become one of the biggest-grossing films of all time.

In the US there have been calls by some Jewish groups for the film to be prosecuted under race hate laws, and today there was fresh criticism from Jewish leaders and Christian groups in Britain.

One group - whose members include Rowan Williams, the Archbishop Of Canterbury, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the leader of England's Catholic community - slammed the film as reinforcing "ancient prejudices".

Neville Nagler, director-general of the Board of Deputies which represents Britain's Jewish community, said the film should "never have been made".

"The glorification of violence and bloodshed and the reinforcement of medieval stereotyping of the Jewish people are extremely dangerous," he said.

"This film overturns the recent teachings of the Church and is completely unhelpful in fostering closer Jewish-Christian relations."

He received backing from the Council Of Christians And Jews, which promotes interfaith relations. The body, whose presidents include Dr Williams, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, issued a strongly-worded condemnation: "CCJ is very troubled about the potential impact of Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ on Christian-Jewish relations. …

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