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Sources: Pope likes Gibson's 'Passion of Christ'

Mel Gibson, right, directs Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus.
Mel Gibson, right, directs Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus.

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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II has seen the controversial Mel Gibson movie, "The Passion of Christ," and he liked it, Vatican sources said Wednesday.

"It is as it was," the sources quoted the pope as saying.

The National Catholic Reporter, a weekly Catholic magazine, first broke the news. The magazine quoted a senior Vatican official who spoke on condition of anonymity as saying, "The Holy Father watched and enjoyed the film."

The Vatican has refused to comment on the matter publicly. The magazine reported that the pope watched a tape of the movie provided by the film's producers.

The film, which depicts the final 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life, is to be released on Ash Wednesday, February 25. It has already come under fire from some Jewish and Roman Catholic groups that are concerned it will fuel anti-Semitism.

The Anti-Defamation League has raised concerns because of what it calls "obvious historical mistakes" in the screenplay. It says a committee of nine Jewish and Catholic scholars reviewed early versions of the screenplay and "found it to be historically inaccurate, unfaithful to the gospel narratives and to project a uniformly negative picture of Jews."

"The screenplay depicts the Jewish society at the time of Jesus as the central force behind the decision for crucifixion, graphically implying that the Jews bear the responsibility for the death of Jesus," the Anti-Defamation League says.

Others, including many Christians, such as Billy Graham, and media Web personality Matt Drudge, who is Jewish, have called the film "beautiful" and "magical."

Biblical scholars have called Gibson's reading of the New Testament into question, and rumors abound that the script's sources include an 18th-century Roman Catholic mystic.

Gibson's company, Icon Productions, has denied the rumors.

The movie was to have been shown at a Vatican-sponsored film festival earlier this month, but Gibson pulled the movie because he wanted to re-edit parts of the film.

The actor, who wrote and co-produced the film, at that time said he would be happy to re-schedule a preview in the Vatican once the movie was finished.


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