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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Franciscan friars petition Gibson
St Francis
St Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment
Franciscan friars have asked Passion of the Christ director Mel Gibson to make a movie biography of the founder of their order, St Francis of Assisi.

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have posted a letter to Gibson on their website, along with an online petition.

It praises the director for his "work of sacred art" and asks him "to produce a sequel about a man many acclaim to be the Church's greatest saint".

St Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment.

In the letter to Gibson, the friars say they believe the film, if made, "would show the world what happens when a person totally and unequivocally responds to the Passion of the Christ."

It goes on to suggest Gibson could call the film Man of the Passion.

St Francis has been portrayed on screen on numerous occasions, notably in Franco Zeffirelli's 1972 film Brother Sun, Sister Moon and by Mickey Rourke in 1989's Francesco.

There was also a 1929 Italian silent, intriguingly called The Passion of St Francis.

The Passion of the Christ
The Passion of the Christ was released in the UK in March
However, the friars say that "while this story has been portrayed on the screen in the past, it has been done poorly".

"This powerful figure has too often been reduced to a pious, peace-loving character cast in plaster."

According to Father Glenn Sudano, head of the community of 82 friars in the New York metropolitan area, saints are too often depicted as caricatures.

"They are much more powerful, more interesting [and] engaging," he said.

Father Sudano admitted the chances of Gibson heeding his order's plea were limited, but hoped the petition would raise the issue.

"If Mr Gibson chooses not to do this, maybe there will be a Polish director or whatever. We just want someone to do it right."

The Passion of the Christ has made over $360m (203m) in the US alone and recently broke box office records in Italy.


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