Demand forces location change for interfaith discussion of "The Passion of the Christ" - Catholic Courier

Demand forces location change for interfaith discussion of “The Passion of the Christ”

Second scheduled for March 11

Due to overwhelming demand, organizers of a Feb. 26 interfaith discussion of Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ” have announced that the event is moving from St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry to the Church of the Transfiguration, 50 W. Bloomfield Rd., Pittsford. The starting time also has been pushed back a half-hour to 7:30 p.m.(Click for story on interfaith leaders’ message about this film.)


As an intermediary measure, organizers last week had arranged to transmit the St. Bernard’s proceedings via teleconferencing to the Hickey Conference Center at the diocesan Pastoral Center in Gates. That teleconference has been cancelled in light of the additional seating available at Transfiguration Church.

Event sponsors — St. Bernard’s, Temple B’rith Kodesh and the Catholic Courier -‚Äì also have scheduled a second evening of discussion on the film for 7 -8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11, at the Burgundy Basin Inn.

The two-part series was designed to help people prepare for and better understand the controversial film, which opens in theaters on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25.

At the Feb. 26 session, local Catholic and Jewish scholars who have seen the film will respond to the question: Can a film fairly depict the death of Christ without invoking anti-Semitism? The scholars will also provide the public with background information to better understand the film, the historical significance of its events and the implications the movie may have for Christian-Jewish relations.

Father Sebastian Falcone, professor of biblical studies at St. Bernard’s, will discuss whether the Passion accounts found in the Gospels should be taken literally, while Rabbi Laurence A. Kotok, senior rabbi at Temple B’rith Kodesh, will address Jewish concerns about possible anti-Semitic images in the film. Rabbi Alison B. Kobey, associate rabbi and director of lifelong Jewish learning at Temple B’rith Kodesh, will present a checklist of critical motifs in the film, and Damian Zynda, professor of Christian spirituality
at St. Bernard’s, will explain how to develop a healthy spirituality of Jesus’ death.

Panelists for the March 11 follow-up discussion will be Rabbis Kotok and Kobey; Father Joseph Brennan, a leader in area Christian-Jewish relations and former adjunct professor of religious studies at the University of Rochester; Deacon Driscoll; film critic Jack Garner; and the Rev. Richard Myers, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church and president of the Greater Rochester Community of Churches. After making brief remarks about their reactions to the film, the panelists will respond to questions from audience members and Catholic Courier Staff Writer Rob Cullivan, who will serve as moderator.

Deacon Driscoll said it’s important to bring together people of both Jewish and Christian faiths to discuss “The Passion of the Christ.”

“We want to help people to think on several sides of the issue,” Deacon Driscoll said. “Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ movie is two movies. For Christians, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the absolute center of our faith — the death and resurrection of Christ. For Jews, the movie may bring up historical prejudice … They (Jews) need to understand our viewpoint and the profound effect this movie will have ‚Ķ and we need to hear if there are things in there that come across as anti-Semitic, and be sensitive to that.”

Karen Franz, the Courier’s general manager and editor in chief, agreed that it is vital for the community to have a forum in which to discuss issues raised by the film. The Courier’s involvement in the series is an outgrowth of the discussion forum it regularly provides in its pages, Franz

“We felt that this was a tailor-made topic, given the proximity of the film’s release to Lent, Passover and Easter,” Franz said. “It’s certainly a subject that merits a thorough and sensitive approach, and we really wanted to get people thinking about the issues involved. We’re taking (the discussion) beyond the pages of the Courier and into the community.”

The first issue of the Catholic Courier Monthly, which will be published April 7, will contain essays written in response to the film by various religious scholars and key members of the local interfaith community.

Editor’s Note:

The Feb. 26 and March 11 discussions are free and open to the public. Due to intense interest in these programs, preregistration is required. For more information or to pre-register, contact Deacon
Tom Driscoll at or 585/271-3657, ext. 292. A suggested donation of $5 will support Jewish-Christian lifelong learning through the Rochester Kollel and St. Bernard’s.

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