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Jewish-owned television station chided for plan to air Christ film

MOSCOW, June 1 (JTA) — A privately owned Russian television station’s plans to air a controversial film about Jesus has prompted outrage laced with anti-Semitism among conservative Orthodox Christians and Russian ultranationalists.
The showing of a 1988 film, “The Last Temptation of Christ,” was canceled last Friday, a day before it was scheduled to be aired, after the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church denounced the movie as blasphemous and offensive to Russian Christians. Last week, about 200 supporters of the outspoken nationalist wing of the Russian Orthodox Church protested outside the offices of NTV, the station that planned to air the film. When the Russian Orthodox Church is “annihilated, which is the dream of NTV and all the Jewish clique that rules it, there will be no Russia,” actor Vladimir Zamansky told the rally. NTV is owned by Russian media magnate Vladimir Goussinsky, who is also president of the Russian Jewish Congress. Some of the protesters were carrying anti-Semitic posters. Many of the banners carried at the rally, which was not sanctioned by the Moscow city government, described the owners of NTV as enemies of the Russian people and of the Orthodox Church. The film by American director Martin Scorcese is based on a 1955 novel by Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis that depicts Jesus in unconventional terms. The controversial film, which includes a fantasy sequence depicting Jesus having sex with Mary Magdalene, was praised by critics upon its release, which was marked by numerous demonstrations at theaters across the United States. The film has been condemned by many Christian denominations and is banned in a number of countries. NTV had originally planned to show the movie in April, on Russian Easter, but postponed the airing after members of the clergy and conservative politicians criticized the move. Before the airing was canceled over the weekend, the radical right-wing group Pamyat issued a statement saying it not could guarantee “the safe existence of NTV staff” if the film were shown.