POPE JOHN PAUL II has been given a personal screening of Mel Gibson controversial new movie The Passion Of The Christ.

Last week (ends12DEC03) it was revealed Catholic heads had approved the epic - which tells the tale of JESUS's last 12 hours - but now VATICAN sources are claiming the Pontiff himself was shown a rough cut.

A church insider tells American newspaper THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, "The Pope definitely saw the film."

The Passion Of The Christ had attracted criticism from Jewish groups who feared it blamed Jews for the death of Christ, and the Catholic church, who feared it may damage relations between the two faiths - but an audience from three different Vatican congregations gave the film their blessing.

REVEREND AUGUSTINE DI NOIA, one of the officials who saw it last week, said, "There is absolutely nothing anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish about Mel Gibson's film."

17/12/2003 17:21