Wednesday, May 28, 2008


MEL GIBSON was forced to defend his film The Passion Of The Christ against charges of anti-Semitism, but the Catholic Church wants no part of such a controversy when Pope Benedict XVI visits Australia in July.

The church has changed one of its most popular devotions and a landmark event of World Youth Day to take account of the sensitivities of Jews and draw other Christian denominations into its youth celebrations.

In the Catholic tradition the Stations of the Cross, the depiction of the final hours of Jesus Christ, features 14 scenes including the fall of Jesus three times - but only eight have scriptural foundation. To make the event more appealing to all Christians, a Vatican-approved scriptural version, founded entirely on passages from the New Testament, will be adopted when it is staged in the streets of Sydney on July 18.

It is not the only concession the church is willing to make in the name of interfaith unity: scriptural texts, reflections and video commentaries will be carefully worked so that the scene at the Sydney Opera House in which Jesus is condemned does not incite anti-Semitic feeling.

The Pope will pray with Australian Christian leaders, including those from Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Eastern Rite churches in the St Mary's Cathedral Crypt the morning of the Stations of the Cross. That will be followed by a meeting with the heads of non-Christian faiths, including the Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu religions.

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