British churches are buying up hordes of tickets for controversial movie The Passion Of The Christ in a desperate bid to convert non-believers.

The Mel Gibson epic portrays the final 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life in brutal style, and religious leaders hope handing out free tickets to parish members will awaken their Christian faith.

One place of worship - St Luke's Church in Maidstone, England - has joined forces with others in the area to spend $36,000 (GBP20,000) on 3,000 tickets at a local cinema, and demand for the screenings has proved greater than leaders were expecting.

RUSS HUGHES, director of worship at St Luke's, says, "We have had an amazing response. The main aim is not to get people to church but to get them to have a rethink about Jesus Christ."

10/03/2004 13:39