"It's good to feel your support," Gibson told the Knights. Advance publicity for the film says the script relied on Gospel accounts of the last 12 hours of Christ's life. Gibson has been giving advance screenings to various groups, including members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Carl A. Anderson, head of the 1.6 million member Knights of Columbus, attended a July screening of the movie. In introducing Gibson to leaders of the Knights, Anderson said "The Passion" was a powerful depiction of Christ's crucifixion. "I urge critics who have not seen the final film to keep an open mind and not prejudge it," Anderson said.
If there is going to be a public debate about "The Passion" and religious rights, Anderson said, the Knights "would not duck from it." Giving Gibson the opportunity to meet with the Knights, he said, "was making sure 'The Passion' gets a fair hearing. We hope such a hearing will promote better religious tolerance and dialogue among all religious faiths."
The Knights of Columbus was founded in New Haven, Conn., in 1882 by Father Michael J. McGivney, a Catholic priest whose cause for sainthood is under study by the Vatican. Founded during an era of anti-Catholic bigotry, the Knights has championed religious rights throughout its 121-year history. The Knights is also known for its charitable and volunteer efforts. In 2002 members raised and donated $128 million to charity and volunteered 60 million hours of service.