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First lady hopes to see Gibson’s ‘The Passion’

Controversial film has been called anti-Semitic
/ Source: Reuters

First lady Laura Bush said Tuesday she would like to see Mel Gibson’s controversial film about the final hours of Jesus Christ, which Jewish leaders have condemned as an anti-Semitic portrayal of the crucifixion story.

“I think it sounds very interesting and I’d like to see it,” the first lady told reporters while visiting a high school in Bentonville, Arkansas. She had been asked if she planned to see the film.

“The Passion of The Christ,” which depicts the last 12 hours in Christ’s life, is based on gospel accounts from the New Testament as well as the visions of a 19th century mystical nun.

The film opens next week on Ash Wednesday. But it has already stirred widespread interest among U.S. evangelical Christians, a group with billions of dollars in spending power and tens of millions of votes.

It has also been condemned by Jewish leaders who say the movie unfairly blames Jews for the death of Christ and could inflame anti-Semitism.

On Tuesday, Abraham Foxman, U.S. director of the Anti-Defamation League, urged Vatican officials at a meeting in Rome to instruct Catholics around the world not to view the movie as reflecting Rome’s teachings.

President Bush, who faces a reelection vote in November, has long courted Christian conservatives as a key element of his political base.

Gibson has denied that either he or his film is anti-Semitic.