An article appearing on the Roman Catholic news site Zenith.org says that “The Passion of the Christ” is a Catholic movie with a very Marian focus. The article is “A Passion of Violence and Love” by Vittorio Messori, Feb. 18, 2004 ( http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=49259 ).
Messori says; "Mel has said it with pride tempered by humility, with pragmatism kneaded with mysticism which becomes in him a singular mixture: "If this work was to fail, for 50 years there will be no future for religious films. We threw the best in here: as much money as we wished, prestige, time, rigor, the charism of great actors, the science of the learned, inspirations of the mystics, experience, advanced technology. "
Messori is the author of the only book-length interview with a pope in history. He collaborated with Pope John Paul II in publishing “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” in 1994.
Messori viewed Mel Gibson's movie at a private showing in Rome a few days before it debuted in theaters in the States. He corroborated the fact that Pope John Paul II had seen the movie in an earlier pre-publication edition. The pope has been quoted as saying that Gibson's movie on Christ is “like it was.”
Messori, a staunch traditional Catholic who has a close association with highly placed leaders in the Catholic hierarchy, says that many miracles occurred during the filming of The Passion , many more miracles than have been reported. He says, “In fact, on the set much more happened than what is known; much will remain in the secret of consciences: conversions, release from drugs, reconciliation between enemies, giving up of adulterous ties, apparitions of mysterious personages, extraordinary explosions of energy, enigmatic figures who knelt down as the extraordinary Caviezel-Jesus passed by, even two flashes of lightning, one of which struck the cross, but did not hurt anyone. And, then, coincidences read like signs...”
The charismatics can't do any better than that.
He notes that every evening during the filming in Rome, “a priest in black cassock celebrated an open-air Mass, in Latin, according to the rite of St. Pius V.”
He says Mel Gibson is “a strong champion of the doctrine confirmed by the Council of Trent. That is the council that hurled 125 solemn curses against anyone who teaches that salvation is by the grace of Christ alone or in any other way contradicts Catholic doctrine.
He says that Gibson produced the movie to be “a mass,” because he believes that the sacrifice of the cross and the sacrifice of the mass are one and the same, as taught by the Council of Trent. Pope Pius IV wrote a summary of the council's teaching called “Pope Pius's Creed.” It stated:
“I profess likewise, that in the Mass is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; and that, in the most holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, there is truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ..”
That is what Mel Gibson believes and that is what he sought to portray in his movie. He did this by directly associating the suffering of Christ on the cross with the events of the Last Supper.
Messori says, “This film, for its author, is a Mass.”
This is why the movie was shot in Aramaic and Latin. Originally Gibson did not plan even to include English subtitles. You say, “No one would understand it.” That is exactly the idea. Gibson believes in the old Catholic dogmas which teach that the mass can be said only in Latin and not in common languages of the people. Thus for centuries the Catholic mass was muttered by priests in a language that the average could not understand. It was merely a mysterious religious ritual that was observed and experienced but not understood.
Likewise, Messori observes: “This film, for its author, is a Mass: Let it be, then, in an obscure language, as it was for so many centuries. If the mind does not understand, so much the better. What matters is that the heart understands that all that happened redeems us from sin and opens to us the doors of salvation.” He says further, “After a while, one stops reading the subtitles to enter, without distractions, in the terrible and marvelous scenes -- that are sufficient in themselves.”
Salvation without understanding. This conforms to the Catholic gospel of sacramentalism and priest craft, but it is not the type of salvation we see in Scripture. Paul says, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Rom. 6:17). Biblical salvation requires hearing the message of the one true gospel and believing it from the heart. It does not come through mysterious rituals and powerful emotional experiences.
THE MOVIE ABOUNDS IN SYMBOLS THAT THE POPE UNDERSTANDS
Messori says the movie is a “Catholic version” of the faith and that for informed men such as the Pope and cardinals the movie is “a manifesto that abounds in symbols that only a competent eye can fully discern.” He says that two books are in preparation that will explain those symbols to the uninitiated. Apparently the movie is much more Catholic than even first meets the eye.
THE MOVIE IS CATHOLIC IN ITS EUCHARISTIC ASPECT AND ITS MARIAN TONE
He says that the “Catholicity of the film” (his words) lies especially in two things: in the “Eucharistic aspect” and in its “strongly Marian tone.”
He observes that “The blood of the Passion is continuously intermingled with the wine of the Mass, the tortured flesh of the ‘corpus Christi' [body of Christ] with the consecrated bread.”
He observes that Gibson took “extraordinary intuitions” in borrowing things from the visions of Catholic mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich.
In fact, Messori is so conscious of the Catholic nature of this movie that he states the following fear: “I believe, however, that the theological importance attributed to the Madonna, as well as to the Eucharist ... will create some uneasiness in American Protestant churches which, without having seen the film, have already organized themselves to support its distribution.”
Perhaps he is right that the openly Catholic nature of the movie will cause “some uneasiness,” but he really has no need to fear that anything MORE than uneasiness will occur. American “Protestant churches” (by this term he is referring to all Protestant and Baptist churches), speaking generally and broadly, are far too accustomed to soft-peddling the truth, far too fearful of speaking plainly against error, to speak out boldly against the Eucharistic and Marian aspects of this movie.