Vatican Confirms Pope Has Seen Mel Gibson's "Passion"

But Says John Paul II Has Made No Official Comments

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 22, 2004 ( The Vatican confirmed that John Paul II has seen Mel Gibson’s film on the passion and death of Christ but has made no official comments about the movie.

«After having consulted with the personal secretary of the Holy Father, Archbishop Dziwisz, I confirm that the Holy Father had the opportunity to see the film ‘The Passion of Christ,'» the director of the Vatican press office, Joaquín Navarro-Valls, said in a statement today.

«It is a common practice of the Holy Father not to express public opinions on artistic works, opinions that are always open to different evaluations of aesthetic character,» the statement added.

It added that the «film is a cinematographic transposition of the historical event of the Passion of Jesus Christ according to the accounts of the Gospel.»

A few weeks ago Vatican sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the Pope had seen the film, on the last 12 hours of Christ’s earthly life, and that he had commented: «It is as it was.»

On Jan. 19, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul II’s longtime secretary, told Catholic News Service that the Holy Father has made no official statements about the film.

That same day, journalist Frank Rich took exception in the New York Times to the Pope’s alleged comments, saying that it was a way to promote the film.

On Dec. 5, Steve McEveety, co-producer of «The Passion,» gave Archbishop Dziwisz a copy of the film in DVD format, so that the Pope could see it.

Other Holy See officials have seen the film and expressed their approval of it. These include Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, and Dominican Father Augustine Di Noia, undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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