German churches join Jews in attack on “Passion”

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Roman Catholic and Protestant churches joined the Jewish community on Thursday in a rare joint declaration to warn that Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ” could fan anti-Semitism in Europe.

In their first joint statement in four years, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the German Bishops Conference and the Protestant Church criticised the film that opened on Thursday in Germany for its “overly negative portrayal” of Jews.

“There is a danger the film will revive anti-Semitic prejudices,” they said.

“This is especially explosive in view of the situation in Europe with a noticeable increase in anti-Semitism. Whether its intention was anti-Semitic or not, there is a danger it could be used as anti-Semitic propaganda.”

Rushed into 400 cinemas in the world’s second biggest film market by revenues three weeks ahead of schedule due to public demand, the biblical epic portraying Christ’s final 12 hours was also attacked by German film critics as anti-Semitic kitsch.

The statement also assailed the film for its disturbing brutality “that exceeds acceptable boundaries” and for over simplyfying the message of the bible.

While anti-Semitism charges have been aired in many of the countries where the blockbuster has been screened, they are especially sensitive in Germany, which still lives under the shadow of the Nazi murder of six million Jews.

Gibson has denied the film is anti-Semitic.

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