LATEST: Vatican officials have asked to see a preview of Mel Gibson's controversial new movie, THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST, so they can make an informed judgment about the project.

The news comes after American religious leader REV BILLY GRAHAM watched the movie - about the last days of Christ - with Gibson, and gave it the thumbs up.

Italian religious leaders want to screen the film during an upcoming conference on theology and cinema to be held later this month (DEC03).

ANDREA PIERSANTI, the head of the Catholic entertainment group ENTEDELLO SPETTACOLO, says, "This way, we will be able to form our own serene and detached opinion of the film."

But Gibson, who produced and directed the film, has yet to agree to hand over his film. The movie star is a member of an ultra-conservative Catholic movement that does not recognise the pope's authority over the Roman Catholic church.

01/12/2003 21:15