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Gibson Sends Passion Film Critic a Conciliatory Letter

Times Staff Writer

As the controversy swirling around “The Passion of the Christ” escalates, director Mel Gibson sent a letter Friday pleading for a detente.

Gibson’s letter to the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham H. Foxman, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, asks him to join in “setting an example for all of our brethren; that the truest path to follow, the only path, is that of respect and, most importantly, that of love for each other despite our differences.”

The Gibson letter comes a week after Foxman, the ADL’s national director and the film’s most vocal critic, sneaked into a closed screening of “The Passion” at a religious convention in Orlando, Fla.

After watching a still unfinished version of “The Passion,” which follows the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life and culminates in a highly graphic depiction of the Crucifixion, Foxman issued a press release stating that the film was hurtful to Jews and pressing the filmmaker for changes.

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He also asked Gibson for an addendum to the film condemning what Foxman called the bigoted interpretation of his Passion narrative, which will premiere in more than 2,000 theaters nationwide on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25.

Gibson, who self-financed the $25-million film and has attended some of the grass-roots screenings held for Christian groups around the country, did not address charges of anti-Semitism in his letter. He did refer to the Orlando screening that Foxman attended, writing, “It is my sincerest of regrets that events conspired for us to just miss each other when we both recently happened to be in Orlando.”

The filmmaker, who belongs to a splinter Roman Catholic group that disavows much of the last 40 years of changes in the church, went on to say, “I do not take your concerns lightly.”

Foxman did not return calls by press time. In his initial reaction to seeing the film, though, Foxman said he hoped Gibson would say: “I did this film because I believe I was inspired by the Holy Ghost. I believe that Jesus suffered for all mankind. Some people want to put the blame for his death on the Jews. Don’t do that.”


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