Mel Gibson is quietly winning over American church leaders in his bid to prove his controversial new movie The Passion Of The Christ isn't blasphemous - by inviting them to top secret screenings.

The movie maker, whose new movie is all about the final hours of JESUS CHRIST's life, hosted a screening in an Illinois church on Tuesday (20JAN04) - and then answered questions about his latest project.

The screening, which brought 4,300 church leaders to Willow Creek, follows a show Gibson staged in California earlier this month (JAN04).

Those who saw the film on Tuesday were largely impressed by the harrowing film, but one Jewish leader admitted he has "certain concerns" about some of the questions raised by the film.

Gibson is planning more church screenings in America in the run up to the movie's release on Catholic holy day Ash Wednesday (25FEB04).

22/01/2004 09:40