Billy Graham screens 'The Passion of the Christ'

Evangelist calls Mel Gibson film ' faithful to the Bible's teaching'
( [email protected] ) Nov 27, 2003 11:48 AM EST

Mel Gibson's new film "The Passion of the Christ" has been receiving a lot of attention from the day it started filming. The film is sure to earn more, especially after it was endorsed by renowned evangelist Billy Graham, who says the movie moved him "to tears."

"I have often wondered what it must have been like to be a bystander during those last hours before Jesus' death," Graham said in a statement released from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "After watching 'The Passion of the Christ,' I feel as if I have actually been there. I was moved to tears. I doubt if there has ever been a more graphic and moving presentation of Jesus' death and resurrection – which Christians believe are the most important events in human history."

Controversy has arisen from critics who say the film is anti-Semitic and that it blames Jews for the death of Jesus.

Addressing critics' concern, Graham says, "The film is faithful to the Bible's teaching that we are all responsible for Jesus' death, because we have all sinned. It is our sins that caused His death, not any particular group. No one who views this film's compelling imagery will ever be the same."

Gibson has claimed he has only based his film on biblical accounts regarding the death of Jesus and that his film was not meant to be anit-Semitic.

According to the statement from Graham's organization, Gibson, accompanied by actor Jim Caviezel who played Jesus in the film, have met with Graham before and after he screened the film. Graham is convinced of Gibson's "deep sincerity and great desire" that the motion picture be used to bring a new emphasis on the events surrounding the execution of Jesus.

"The Passion of the Christ" depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus' life. The film is scheduled to open on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.