Mel Gibson's spokesman issued a statement late Monday saying there is no reason to believe the Vatican's denial that the Pope commented favorably about the controversial film "The Passion of the Christ."
Associates of Gibson quoted the pope as commenting, after viewing the film, "It is as it was."
Since then, questions have swirled about the papal statement, and the pope's remarks angered critics of the film, who claim it will arouse anti-Semitism. The film is set for release on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday.
On Monday, the Catholic News Service, an arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reported that the pope "never" made such a statement.
CNS quoted the pope's longtime personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz.
"The Holy Father told no one his opinion of this film," the archbishop told CNS.
But Steve McEveety, the film's co-producer, and Jan Michelini, its assistant director, said they met Archbishop Dziwisz after the papal viewing. Dziwisz told them the pope simply commented, "It is as it was."
Now, Dziwisz claims, "That is not true."
"I said clearly to McEveety and Michelini that the Holy Father made no declaration," the archbishop told CNS.
In a statement issued late Monday, Gibson's spokesman Alan Nierob stated:
"Based on all previous correspondence and conversations held directly between representatives of the film and the official spokesperson for the Pope, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, there is no reason to believe that the Pope's support of the film 'isn't as it was'."
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