Thursday, February 26, 2004

Israeli Chief Rabbi Metzger urges Pope to say Jews not to blame for crucifixion 

From Haaretz Thu., February 26, 2004 Adar 4, 5764
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/398764.htmlBy The Associated Press

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger on Thursday urged the pope to reiterate in public that Jews are not to blame for the death of Jesus, saying he fears Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" could revive such beliefs.

Metzger said he is sending a letter to Pope John Paul II with the request. Metzger said he wants the pope to reiterate a key church decision from the 1960s that reversed the centuries-old doctrine that Jews were behind the crucifixion.

"The Vatican and the Pope must explain today ... that the Jewish nation, the Jewish people didn't kill Jesus," Metzger told The Associated Press in an interview.

Gibson's film, a bloody depiction of Christ's final 12 hours and his death, opened in American movie theaters on Wednesday. Jewish leaders have criticized the movie, saying it will fuel anti-Semitism through an unfair portrayal of Jews as being the main force behind Jesus' death.

Gibson, who directed, funded and co-scripted the film, has denied those charges.

Earlier this month, the Anti-Defamation League also asked the Vatican to restate its view on the crucifixion, but a Vatican official at the time said no such statement was planned.

In a landmark 1965 document called "Nostra Aetate," Latin for "In Our Time," the Vatican deplored anti-Semitism in every form and repudiated the "deicide" charge that blamed Jews as a people for Christ's death. The idea of Jewish guilt had fueled anti-Semitism for centuries.

The document was issued during the Second Vatican Council and has been credited with helping improve relations between Christians and Jews.

Gibson is a member of a movement known as traditionalist Catholicism, which rejects the modernizing reforms made at the council, a series of meetings held from 1962-65 that dramatically changed the Catholic Church.

An Israeli lawmaker on Wednesday called for Gibson's movie to be banned from Israeli cinemas. But it's unlikely the Israeli film board, which has rarely banned movies in the past, would bar "The Passion."

Media reports over the past months said the pope approved of the film after a screening in his apartment in early December and said, "It is as it was." But John Paul's secretary later denied he ever endorsed the film.

Rabbi Metzger, who first met the pope at the Vatican in January, said he fears the movie could be a setback for efforts to build stronger ties between the two faiths.

"All of us, we are the sons of the same God, the sons of the same father, Abraham," Metzger said.
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