A top Vatican cardinal has praised a controversial film about Jesus Christ, rejecting fears it could spark a wave of anti-Jewish feeling.
Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos said he would gladly trade some of the homilies he has given about Christ’s life for even a few scenes of the film.
After seeing an unfinished version, Hoyos told the Catholic News Agency Aciprensa he would “like all our Catholic priest throughout the world to see it”.
But last month, a Jewish rights group condemned Mel Gibson's film, saying it could fuel anti-Jewish sentiment.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is the latest group to speak out against The Passion, Gibson's depiction of Jesus’ alleged crucifixion and events leading up to it, saying it was "dangerous".
In a statement, ADL said the film showed Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob as being responsible for the decision to crucify Jesus.
The Anti-Defamation League said the movie had been seen by Rabbi Eugene Korn, its director of inter-faith affairs.
He said it contained "many dangerous teachings" that Christians and Jews had worked to counter.
"We are deeply concerned that the film ... will fuel the hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism that many responsible churches have worked hard to repudiate"
national ADL director
He hoped that Gibson and his film production company would "consider modifying" the movie.
The group's national director, Abraham Foxman, added: "We are deeply concerned that the film, if released in its present form, will fuel the hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism that many responsible churches have worked hard to repudiate."
Gibson's spokesman, however, said there was no suggestion of the film being anti-Jewish.
The actor’s publicist Alan Nierob said: "No one associated with this film has any interest in fuelling hatred."
"In fact, Mel's interest is just the opposite as he has stated previously that this film is about love, hope, faith and forgiveness."
Gibson is director of The Passion, which stars The Thin Red Line's Jim Caviezel and Monica Bellucci. It features Latin and Aramaic dialogue and no English subtitles.
Earlier, Gibson himself said he believed the movie would "inspire not offend".