Gibson Shows 'Passion' at the Vatican

12/10/2003 at 01:30 AM EST

After an initial postponement earlier this month, Mel Gibson screened his controversial film "The Passion of Christ" for three highly influential Vatican congregations and has received a strong endorsement from at least one American official, according to the Zenit international news service, which chronicles Vatican news and communications.

By the same token, says the Hollywood Reporter, the words of praise have fueled another demand from America's Anti-Defamation League for Gibson to make his film available for review over its purported anti-Semitic content.

This past weekend, says Zenit, "The Passion," which is an account of the last 12 hours in the life of Christ, was screened for members of the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Zenit account, however, did not specify names of attendees, but said that the screening resulted in "unanimous appreciation and approval" of the film by those present.

For months now, the film, which is now due to be released in the U.S. on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004, has stirred concerns from the ADL that it purportedly carries an anti-Semitic message.

To date, Gibson and his Icon Productions have staunchly refused to show the movie to the Jewish group, though several screenings have taken place in the U.S.

On Tuesday, ADL national director Abraham Foxman told the Hollywood Reporter that he was critical of Gibson and Icon's refusal to screen the film for him.

"And while I respect (the Vatican's) views on theology," said Foxman, "I don't know if they are the best to judge it on how it will impact Jews."

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