Carl Toti, Senior Pastor of Trinity Church says Mel Gibson's new controversial movie 'The Passion of the Christ' was riveting and very compelling. At a recent conference in Orlando, Toti attended an uncut screening of the movie. He says, "We're all guilty of nailing Christ to the cross, but it does conern me when others view it from a prejudice or anti-semetic standpoint."
Toti believes the passion of the Christ is a historically accurate portrayal of the events leading up to Jesus' death. He does not feel Jews were singled out in the film like many of its critics do. Toti does admit though, the film's violence is shocking. He says, "I'll take my 11-year-old, but some scenes may not be appropriate for young children just because of the graphic nature of the crucifiction."
Trinity Church and many area churches have made reservations in advance for entire showings of 'The Passion of the Christ' at local theaters. They're excited about the film and its message, but there are members of the Jewish community that are worried it may be a setback for them and their relationships with other faiths.
Dr. Anne Epstein, former President of the Congregation Shaareth Israel says, "Persecution and death of Jews was ultimately blamed on the claim the Jews killed Jesus. I remember hearing that as a child... 'My mommy won't let me play with you because you killed Jesus.' and I don't want to return to those days."
Doctor Epstein has not seen the film, but she has heard concerns in the Jewish community about its fairness and accuracy. She says, "Mel Gibson does not accept changes of the Vatican II Council which established many of the guidelines for portraying the role of Jews and for the first time declared current Jews are not responsible for Jesus' death.
NewsChannel 11 contacted about 50 local churches on Tuesday. About half of them have already reserved theaters or purchased tickets in advance for opening day of 'The Passion of the Christ'. The movie opens next Wednesday.