Greek Church Says Gibson's 'Passion' Against Gospel

The head of the Greek Orthodox Church said on Wednesday Mel Gibson's new film "The Passion of the Christ" went against the Gospel's account, and cautioned that the purpose of the Passions was not to stir up hatred.

Some U.S. critics have slammed the film's graphic violence and others have labeled it anti-Semitic.

"The movie is run through by excessive, shattering realism, at least in the violent scenes. But it goes against the Gospel's narration of the Passions," said Archbishop Christodoulos after watching the film in an advance screening packed with reporters and black-robed priests.

"The purpose of the Passions is not to provoke, nor induce stimulus for the imagination or the emotions, nor cause feelings of hatred and indignation against those that took part in the Crucifixion and the Passion, given that the Passion of Christ was voluntary," he added.

The Greek showing of the film was well received by most of the audience who filed out quietly at the credits. Many commented on violence of the movie, which includes close-ups of flayed flesh and unflinching shots of the hammering of nails into Jesus.

"I could not stop crying," one movie-goer said, "it was so powerful."

Christodoulos, a controversial but popular archbishop, has in the past made waves by his comments on national and political issues, once blaming Jews for a decision to eliminate a religion entry from state identity cards.

Around 97 percent of the native-born population in Greece is baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church, the official state religion.

In the U.S., bishops worried the film will revive age-old tension between Christians and Jews have issued a booklet highlighting the Vatican's position that Jews were not collectively responsible for Christ's torture and death.