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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 11:58 GMT
Passion actor Caviezel meets Pope
Jim Caviezel with the Pope
Actor Jim Caviezel, a devout Catholic, plays Jesus in the film
The actor who plays Jesus in the controversial The Passion of the Christ had an audience with the Pope on Monday, the Vatican confirmed.

Jim Caviezel, 35, had a brief meeting with Pope John Paul II who then blessed the devoutly Catholic actor.

Caviezel's wife and parents-in-law were also present at the Vatican meeting.

The Pope was given an early private screening of Mel Gibson's film, but Vatican officials denied reports that he personally endorsed it.

Jim Caveziel
Caviezel portrays the final hours of Jesus' life in the film
The film has been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism, long before it was even released, with some Jewish groups seeing it as entirely blaming Jews for the death of Christ.

While in Rome, Caviezel attended a private screening at the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative Catholic group.

The actor has been hailed for his performance as Jesus in the film, which tells the story of the Crucifixion.

For much of the film he had to be covered in fake blood as he depicted Christ's final hours.

The Passion of the Christ has been a surprise box office success, reaping more than $250m (138m) in the US alone.

It remains top of the US box office after three weeks, and experts predict it could reach the $400m (220m) milestone.

It receives its UK release on 26 March.




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