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Churches queue for Mel Gibson's Passion

More than 20,000 tickets have been pre-booked by religious groups eager to see Mel Gibson's new film The Passion Of The Christ, which has reportedly been warmly received by Cardinal George Pell.

The film's distributors have been inundated with requests from various denominations to book out whole movie complexes, hold discussion sessions after screenings, and even place a confessional booth outside a cinema when it opens nationally on Ash Wednesday, 25 February.

Cardinal Pell, one of Australia's first religious leaders to see an unfinished version of the movie, said it was "not anti-Semitic". The film tells the story of the last 12 hours of Jesus's life.

"It is a beautiful production, a work of faith, truly based on the gospels," Cardinal Pell told The Australian.

The Passion is expected to have an MA rating because of its graphic violence and is subtitled because the dialogue is presented in the Aramaic and street Latin.

While US Jewish groups have labelled it anti-Semitic, Rabbi Raymond Apple of Sydney's Great Synagogue said he is keen to see it at "the earliest opportunity" to make up his own mind.

"These are times when there is a growing inter-religious understanding and harmony," Rabbi Apple said. "There is a very good relationship between the Jewish community and the Catholic Church and I'm sure that no film is going to disturb that."

Icon film distribution chief executive officer Mark Gooder said the company, which is owned by Gibson, was working with cinemas to cope with the demand from religious groups while also accommodating the general public.

Churches queue for Passion (Herald-Sun 6/2/04)

Gibson snips controversial scene from The Passion (CathNews 5/2/04)
Gibson to Delete a Scene in 'Passion' (New York Times 4/2/04)
Mystery of Pope's 'approval' of Gibson film (The Guardian 24/1/04)
Vatican ends controversy on Mel Gibson film publicity (CathNews 23/1/04)
Campaign to counter Gibson film planned (USA Today/Associated Press 2/2/04)
Campaign to counter Gibson film (Herald-Sun 3/2/04)
Gibson's heavy cross to bear (Sydney Morning Herald 4/2/04)
The Passion of the Christ (official website)
The Passion of the Christ: Icon Film Distribution Australia

6 Feb 2004