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Catholic Church opts for diplomatic scripts so no one will get cross
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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.

The Anglican Dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen, has said he will not attend, and his brother, Dr Peter Jensen, the Archbishop, will be overseas, but the church expects a senior representative of Sydney Anglicans to attend.

The World Youth Day co-ordinator, Anthony Fisher, said all religions would receive a bounce from the public expression and celebration of faith.

"We've been in discussion with the Jewish community," Bishop Fisher said. "We're very conscious of the fear some people might have that enacting the Passion of Christ could incite anti-Semitic feelings and so we've had a long dialogue about how we can minimise any risk of that.

"We want to make it very clear to people that the Passion of Christ celebrated in the Stations of the Cross is not intended to be, is no excuse for being, an attack on anybody and certainly for nurturing any prejudices that people may have in their hearts.

"In the choice of scriptural texts you can choose ones that are less likely to be misinterpreted by people to encourage that kind of feeling and we've chosen those texts carefully and in consultation with others."

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, senior rabbi of the Great Synagogue, said he had not seen the details but applauded the church's attempts at positive dialogue between the two faiths. He had invited the Pope to visit the synagogue.

Bishop Fisher said invitations had yet to go out and it had not been decided whether the controversial Islamic cleric, the senior imam at the Lakemba Mosque, Sheik al-Hilaly would be among the invitees.

Malek Fahd Islamic School, a co-educational primary and high school in Greenacre, will host more than 300 Catholic pilgrims for the World Youth Day program.

The Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, said internal research showed young Catholics were keen to bring non-Catholic friends to World Youth Day events.

In response to the Herald's disclosure that some Randwick residents will be fenced in and unable to park in their driveways, Bishop Fisher said it was the price of hospitality.

"I think whenever you have people to your home it's a wonderful thing for you, but it always inconveniences you in some way … that's part of hospitality," he said.

Linda Morris Religious Affairs Writer

Source >
  SMH.com.au (May 29)

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