But Rev. John Pawlikowki, director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at Chicago's Catholic Theological Union, who criticized the script as being anti-Jewish and violating Church teachings last April with an ad hoc group of Catholic and Jewish scholars, said the Church officials are ignoring the real issue.

"I regret that none of the Catholic leaders ... have addressed the substance of our critique," he told The Jewish Week Monday. "That substance is that the main story line puts the primary responsibility for the death of Jesus on the Jewish cabal led by Caiphas [the Jewish high priest]. This is contrary to the recent Catholic documents and modern biblical scholarship. Until they show in a concrete way how the script squares with these documents and with modern biblical scholarship their endorsements ring hollow."

Rev. Pawlikowski noted that neither Cardinal Hoyos nor Archbishop Foley are Vatican spokesmen on Catholic-Jewish relations. He called on Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican's commission on Religious Relations with Jews, to address the issue.

Foxman also called on Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, the Church's top liaison in America to Jews, to speak out in light of the praise from the two Vatican clerics. Foxman and ADL interfaith director Rabbi Eugene Korn met privately with Cardinal Keeler last month, when the cleric declined to publicly enter the fray over the movie.

(Catholic scholars including Sister Mary Boys of Manhattan's Union Theological Seminary and Dr. Philip Cunningham of Boston College's Center for Christian Jewish Learning met with Cardinal Keeler last week, sources told The Jewish Week.)

Foxman sent a letter Tuesday asking Cardinal Keeler to speak out now because if the public only hears the voices of Church officials supporting the movie, "people will assume the Church in fact is endorsing this film."

A spokesman for Cardinal Keeler told The Jewish Week Tuesday that he has not seen the movie nor read the script and would not comment.

However, Rabbi Korn said that Keeler privately has agreed "in principle to begin a broad educational campaign for the Catholic community to teach the correct Catholic teaching" about the Crucifixion and Judaism.

"Many people are unaware of this, and some are either knowingly or unknowingly are reverting back to old pre-Vatican II understandings.

"We have ridden into the middle of ideological war between conservative Catholics and Vatican II progressive Catholics," Rabbi Korn said. "The Catholic Church in America has to speak out very clearly about the issues this movie raises."

"One of the problems is people are going to see this film and are going to conclude that's the way it is because they don't know anything different, it's part of the religious illiteracy in our country," Sister Boys said. "We really have to find ways to educate them about interpreting Scripture more thoughtfully."