Mel Gibson has refused to give the Vatican a preview of his film The Passion of Christ, because the crucifixion scenes are too violent.
The film has already provoked controversy in the US
The film's producer has said Gibson was "softening" the scenes of Christ's death, and the film was not ready.
Leaders of the Catholic Church are concerned the film could damage relations with the Jewish community.
The Vatican has only ever given its blessing to one film version of the biblical story.
Jewish groups fear that the film, which is largely based on the Gospels, could portray Jews badly by showing them clamouring for the death of Jesus.
The Vatican Ecumenical Council rejected the charge that Jews were responsible for Jesus's death in a series of decrees from 1962 to 1965.
However, Gibson is part of a strict Catholic group which rejects the Vatican decrees.
Of several modern movie versions of Jesus's life, only Pier Paulo Pasolini's straightforward retelling of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew has received Vatican approval.
A private screening of The Passion of Christ may be shown for a small group of churchmen in January, according to the director of the Vatican film archive, Enrique Planas.