Manila (AsiaNews) Even before Bishop Teodoro Bacani of Manila saw the film, he learned from a Jesuit retreat master that the film has the impact of "four spiritual retreats" on its viewers. Hence, the bishop said, it really must be worth it.
On March 9th, the Philippine Bishops had a special viewing of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" at the Glorietta Mall in Makati City, weeks before its normal showing in the country.
Francis Soliven of Warner Bros., the film's distributor, described the film to the bishops as "the story of Christ's tremendous courage and sacrifice which inspires tolerance, love and forgiveness among all peoples. A timely message for today as it was then."
After viewing the film, Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao and president of the Bishops' Conference said: "The film brings us back to our faith, to make us look at ourselves, to realize that our sins contribute to the pain and sufferings of Jesus. We admire the filmmaker for making it so realistic. That is why the Holy Father said of the film: 'It is what it was!' [After news spread on the comment, the Vatican declared that no public commentary was made by the pope] "The director showed his talent and creativity through the film. Clearly, his work shows how he understands scripture," Archbishop Capalla said after the film.
The film did not add anything to what we already know from the Bible, Military Ordinary Bishop Ramon Arguelles told AsiaNews. "But the presentation is very alive, making it so extraordinary. It is as if it is really happening right before you. You feel part of the whole thing."
What impressed the bishop were the film's images of the "beautiful unison between mother and child, the portrait of their oneness, so much so that it makes you weep when seeing the way Christ suffers. The director was very successful in showing the feelings of Mary, seen in the face of the actress playing the Blessed Mother. That is what really is very touching." Similar to that of Franco Zeffirelli's film "Jesus of Nazareth", you can see that Mary as expecting and being a part of the sacrifice of Christ, he said. "She knew that Christ had to undergo this passion and she did not only accept this reality but was a part of it. Theologically, it is very sound," he said.
Before coming to the movie theater, the bishops talked about the film, based on what they had read. "We were saying that Mel Gibson may be the best evangelizer of our times," Bishop Arguelles said. "So far the best evangelizer of our time is Mother Teresa. Now, they say, Gibson may beat out Mother Teresa because of the millions who have seen and will see the film in such a short time." (SE)