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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 10:36 GMT
Germany wary of Passion reaction
Actor Jim Caviezel
Actor Jim Caviezel plays Jesus in the film
German Jewish leaders and church officials have warned that The Passion of the Christ may stir up anti-Semitism when it opens in the country.

Mel Gibson's film will be shown in 400 German cinemas from Thursday.

"The anti-Semites will only have their views on Jews confirmed," said Salomon Korn, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

German Protestant leader Wolfgang Huber said the film did not put Christ's suffering into proper perspective.

We urgently warn against using the suffering of Jesus as an instrument for anti-Semitism
German Bishops' Conference
The movie is being released in Germany three weeks ahead of schedule in response to public demand.

Anti-Semitism charges against the film - which portrays the death of Jesus - are especially sensitive in Germany, where the Holocaust was planned.

German Catholic leaders called the film problematic, and the German Bishops' Conference said: "We urgently warn against using the suffering of Jesus as an instrument for anti-Semitism."

Salomon Korn said the film was a "sado-masochist orgy of violence" laden with "kitsch", while Wolfgang Huber described the film's violence as "intolerable".

Actor Jim Caviezel with the Pope
Jim Caviezel recently had an audience with the Pope
Leading German essayist Henryk M Broder wrote in Der Spiegel magazine that "those who can't stand Jews will find confirmation in the film".

"Amazingly, Jews will once again be held responsible for a murder that happened almost 2,000 years ago," he wrote.

"While other people don't want to hear anything any more about the murder of millions just 60 years after it happened."

But Mr Broder added that The Passion of the Christ was unlikely to convert people who did not hate Jews into anti-Semites.

Director Mel Gibson has denied the film was anti-Semitic. US Catholic and Christian groups and biblical scholars, have defended the film, saying it sticks closely to New Testament accounts of the crucifixion.

The Passion of the Christ has earned more than $270m (150m) since its 25 February opening in the US.


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