August 07, 2005

World Youth Day--The Jesus Olympics

World Youth Day is a Catholic event that happens every summer, and Pope John Paul II used these international gatherings of young people to promote himself as a rock star. He whipped up the crowds to near idolatrous enthusiasm for him personally without really teaching anything of substance. JP2 was a media star of the first magnitude at those occasions, and they've become major tourist events.

This year the thing is in Cologne, Germany, and it's the only out-of-Italy trip Pope Benedict XVI has planned for the foreseeable future. The organizers in Cologne were worried to death last spring that the pope would die and the new pope wouldn't want to come to their event. Benedict, the good German, announced early on that he'd be there.

At the moment, the organizers of a bid for Sydney, Australia, to host the 2008 World Youth Day are in negotiations with Mel Gibson, the actor and the director of The Passion of the Christ, to stage a mock crucifixion to open what they hope will be World Youth Day Sydney 2008.

SYDNEY, Australia - Actor-director Mel Gibson has been asked to recreate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the streets of Sydney if the city is selected to host a major Catholic gathering in 2008, a newspaper reported.

Gibson's staging of the Stations of the Cross, a live interpretation of Christ's final hours, would be part of a bid by the city to secure the Catholic Church's World Youth Day in 2008, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Saturday.

The crucifixion reenactment — similar to scenes from Gibson's hugely successful film "The Passion of the Christ" — would begin with the Last Supper staged at Sydney's landmark Opera House at sunset, and would end with the crucifixion of Christ at St. Mary's Cathedral, according to bid documents the newspaper said it obtained.

Source: Click here.

There's a lot of money at stake, of course. The World Youth Day in 2008 is likely to draw 400,000 youths and chaperones from around the world. They'll all need places to stay, food to eat, and souvenirs to buy.

This is very ironic to me on several levels.

First, Mel Gibson belongs to a schismatic church that doesn't believe Pope Benedict XVI is the real pope. They believe he's an anti-pope, the spawn of the devil.

Second, Mel Gibson believes his own wife, who is an Episcopalian, is going to hell because she's an Episcopalian. He's sorry, but there's really nothing he can do about that. I can imagine what their pillow talk must be like.

Third, The Passion of the Christ was roundly condemned by professional movie critics as thinly-veiled sado-masochistic pornography. That says a lot to me about the people who loved that movie.

Fourth, World Youth Day was conceived, presumably, as a kind of spontaneous gathering of young Catholics to participate in intense religious education and fellowship and worship on an international level. It's turned into a kind of quasi-Olympics event, with no games. I'm sure there will be medals aplenty, but they'll all be religious.

I don't care if Sydney gets the Jesus Games in 2008 or not. I do care that something with as much potential for good as World Youth Day has become a bidding war among cities. And I care that somebody like Mel Gibson, who believes Roman Catholics are headed straight to hell following Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, is being solicited to "stage" the crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.