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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 15:41 GMT
Pope 'did not endorse Jesus film'
The Passion of the Christ
Mel Gibson directs Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ
Pope John Paul II's private secretary has denied that the Pope endorsed Mel Gibson's latest movie The Passion of the Christ.

Following a private viewing of the film, the Pope was widely reported to have said: "It is as it was."

But Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz told Catholic News Service: "The Holy Father told no-one his opinion of this film."

Jewish groups fear the film could spark anti-Semitism by suggesting Jews were involved in Christ's death.

'No declaration'

The Pope watched the film, which depicts the final 12 hours of Christ's life, over two screenings in December.

He was accompanied by Archbishop Dziwisz and his second secretary, the Catholic News Service (CNS) said.

Afterwards the Pope allegedly expressed approval for the film, although his spokesman refused to confirm this.

He does not make judgements on art of this kind; he leaves that to others, to experts
Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz
However, Archbishop Dziwisz told CNS: "The Holy Father saw the film privately in his apartment, but gave no declaration to anyone.

"He does not make judgements on art of this kind; he leaves that to others, to experts. Clearly, the Holy Father made no judgement of the film."

The Passion of the Christ has also caused debate because most of its dialogue is in ancient Aramaic and Latin.

Gibson's Icon Productions film company said on Tuesday that the film would incorporate some English subtitles, however.

"What you see on the screen transcends language," a spokesman said.

The Passion of the Christ is due to be released in the UK on 26 March.

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