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March 12, 2003

LA Rabbi Asks Mel Gibson to Reconsider Jesus Film

Those of us old enough will recall the hate-filled cry of "Jesus killer."
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A prominent Jewish leader on Friday asked actor Mel Gibson (news) to make certain that his new film on the last 12 hours in the life of Christ does not portray the Jews as collectively responsible for the crucifixion.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he was concerned because an article to be published in the New York Times Magazine portrays Gibson as a traditionalist Catholic opposed to the reforms of Vatican (news - web sites) II.

Heir said, "Obviously, no one has seen 'The Passion' and I certainly have no problem with Mel Gibson's right to believe as he sees fit or make any movie he wants to. What concerns me, however is when I read that the film's purpose is to undo the changes made by Vatican II."

He said that Vatican conclave was convened to deal with several critical issues, including the rejection of the notion that the Jews were collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.

"If the new film seeks to undo Vatican II ... it would unleash more of the scurrilous charges of deicide directed against the Jewish people, which took the Catholic Church 20 centuries to finally repudiate," he said.

Gibson is completing the self-financed film on the last 12 hours in the life of Christ and a friend of the Gibson family is quoted as telling the Times that Gibson will graphically portray the intense suffering of Christ, "perhaps as no film has done before." Gibson is directing the film.

The friend, Gary Giuffre, a traditionalist Catholic, also said that the film will lay the blame for the death of Christ where it belongs -- a reference that some traditionalists believe means the Jewish authorities who presided over his trial, the article said.

A spokesman for Gibson had no comment, saying he had not seen the article. Sources close to the actor said Gibson's religious views and those of his family were known.

Discussing his film in a recent TV interview, Gibson was asked whether his account might particularly upset Jews. He said, "It may. It's not meant to. I think it's meant to just tell the truth."