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Pope calls Gibson's 'Passion' realistic

John Paul II attends special screening of crucifixion epic
/ Source: The Associated Press

Pope John Paul II has seen “The Passion,” Mel Gibson’s Biblical epic on the crucifixion of Christ, and said the film “shows how it was,” a Church official said Thursday.

The official said the film’s co-producer reported that the pope told his secretary the film was an accurate portrayal of Christ’s death. “It shows how it was,” the pontiff was quoted as saying.

The pope’s apparent approval of “The Passion” follows similar praise from several top Vatican officials, who have rejected complaints by some Jewish leaders who say the film suggests Jews were responsible for Christ’s death.

The church official, who spoke on condition he not be identified, said two screenings were recently held so the ailing, 83-year-old pontiff didn’t have to sit through one long production.

Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls declined Thursday to confirm or deny whether the pope had seen the film or what his impressions were.

Gibson’s production company has arranged a number of private, pre-release screenings for Vatican officials. However, plans for a screening at a Vatican-sponsored film festival on spirituality earlier this month were scrapped because Gibson’s Icon Productions company said the final edit was not then ready.

Gibson plans to open the film in the United States on Feb. 25 --Ash Wednesday on the Roman Catholic calendar.