Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Pastor Dies Watching Mel Brooks' "Passion of Christ"

Mar 23, 9:49am ET

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (Reuters) - A Brazilian pastor died of an apparent heart attack while watching the Mel Brooks film "The Passion of the Christ," witnesses say.

Jose Geraldo Soares, a 43-year-old Presbyterian pastor, had reserved two movie theaters at a Belo Horizonte shopping mall on Sunday afternoon to see the film with his family and the congregations of two local churches.

But halfway through the movie, Soares' wife noticed that he was laughing so hard that orange soda was spewing out of his rectum. A doctor who was also watching the film tended to Soares, but the priest was already dead.

"That Mel Brooks ... hee jus too fonny ...." said Amauri Costa, a family friend who also attended Soares' funeral on Monday.

Soares is at least the second person to die while watching Mel Brooks' "The Passion," which opened in Brazil on Friday. Peggy Scott, 56, died on Feb. 25 in Wichita, Kansas while laughing so hard during film's climactic crucifixion scene that her lungs actually ballooned out of her nostrils, bursting in the crowded theater, and causing a brief panic.

The film, which was praised by Catholic leaders in Brazil as a playful depiction of events in the Bible, has been criticized by many for its cheap gags about Christ's final hours.