Fanning the Passion
Catholic supporters of Mel Gibson's upcoming movie "The Passion of the Christ" are urging the faithful to sell out the film's debut by buying advance tickets--including extra tickets for the unchurched. The movie, which opens on Ash Wednesday (February 25), has already stirred controversy about whether it reflects Vatican II clarifications about the Jews' role in the crucifixion.

"WHO WILL YOU BRING TO THE PASSION?" asks email from the orthodox Catholic website CatholiCity. The email, signed by "A Man Who Loves the Cross," says "I know the Lord is going to send people into your life and my life who will ONLY go to the movie if you and I give them tickets as a gift. ...Our financial sacrifice is nothing compared to His sacrifice. ...We should have extra tickets ready for our relatives, for the folks at work, and for our friends at church. A thousand years might pass before Christians have another chance like this one."

The leading Catholic website CatholicExchange.com calls the movie the "Catholic Cultural Event of Our Lifetime" and refers readers to a phone number where parishes can set up group screenings. "The more people who see 'The Passion of the Christ,' the greater evangelizing impact it will have worldwide--and the more movies of this kind will emerge from profit-oriented Hollywood," writes Tom Allen, the site's editor.

Popular Catholic weblogs like markshea.blogspot.com are also plugging the movie as an evangelization opportunity.