Mel Gibson may not be too fond of the Vatican, but the Vatican has twice this week endorsed his upcoming film ''The Passion.'' On Thursday, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy (the Vatican department in charge of priests), said he'd seen a rough cut of ''The Passion'' and praised the film as a ''triumph of art and faith'' in an interview in newspaper La Stampa and added his voice to the growing chorus of Christian leaders who've denied that Gibson's depiction of Jesus' execution is anti-Semitic.
''I would gladly trade some of the homilies that I have given about the passion of Christ for even a few of the scenes of his film,'' said Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, who heads a Vatican commission aimed at bringing back into the fold traditionalist Catholics like Gibson who've rejected the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, among which was a repudiation of the charge of deicide against the Jews. The cardinal also dismissed fears voiced by Jewish groups that the movie, which Gibson hopes to release next Ash Wednesday, revives the deicide charge and may spark violence against Jews. ''Anti-Semitism, like all forms of racism, distorts the truth in order to put a whole race of people in a bad light. This film does nothing of the sort,'' he said.
Last week, U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley, of the Vatican's social communications office, also dismissed the film's critics and praised its fidelity to the Gospels, even though he hadn't seen it. ''From what I could see of the trailers, it seemed to be an excellent film,'' he told the Associated Press.