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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 17:53 GMT
Churches book up Passion tickets
The Passion of Christ
Gibson says film is about "obsessional love"
Evangelical churches in the US are booking up cinemas for the opening day of Mel Gibson's controversial movie The Passion of the Christ.

A national evangelical organisation in the US is helping to sell tickets for screenings from its website.

Pastors are also planning movie-related sermons to co-incide with its release on Ash Wednesday, on 25 February.

The film, which documents the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus, opens in the UK on 26 March.

Pastor Cory Engel, of Harvest Springs Community Church in Great Falls, Massachusetts, said members of his church had raised $12,000 (7,300) to stand by a box office and buy tickets for film-goers.

But he denied that he was selling a movie.


"This is a window of opportunity we have," said Engel.

"Churches used to communicate by having a little lecture time on Sunday morning. People don't interact that way any more.

"Here's a chance for us to use a modern-day technique to communicate the truth of the Bible," he said.

Kyle Fisk, spokesman for the National Association of Evangelicals, added that churches were intending to use the film to share their faith "with people in their community who would never go into a church".

The Passion of the Christ, which is being independently released, will be shown on 2,000 screens in the US - as many as a major studio film.

However, the film has been dogged by controversy after Jewish groups complained the film could spark anti-Semitism by suggesting Jews were involved in Christ's death.

But Catholic and Protestant groups say it sticks closely to Biblical texts.

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