VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II has seen "The Passion of the Christ," Mel Gibson's biblical epic on the crucifixion of Christ, and said the film "shows how it was," a church official said yesterday.
The pope's apparent approval of "The Passion of the Christ" follows similar praise from several top Vatican officials, rejecting complaints by some Jewish leaders, who say the film suggests Jews were responsible for Christ's death. The church official, who spoke on condition he not be identified, said two screenings were held so the ailing, 83-year-old pontiff didn't have to sit through one long production.
Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls declined yesterday to confirm or deny whether the pope had seen the film.
Gibson's production company has arranged a number of private, prerelease screenings for Vatican officials. However, plans for a screening at a Vatican-sponsored film festival earlier this month were scrapped because Gibson's Icon Productions company said the final edit was not ready yet.
Gibson plans to open the film in the United States on Feb. 25 -- Ash Wednesday on the Roman Catholic calendar.