Following a viewing on Monday of Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ, the Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Dr Yaakov Pearlman, has asked the majority Catholic Church to denounce the film as anti-Semitic.

He is reported in the Irish press today as urging the Catholic Church to clarify its official position, stated in the 1960s, that it absolved all Jews of any culpability for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

He is quoted as saying that Gibson's film depicted Jews "as blood-thirsty, evil, barbaric and as having betrayed and informed on Jesus. I am afraid it will open up old wounds and influence or ignite the anti-Semitism which is growing across Europe today."

The reaction of Christian clerics and academics was, in general, less concerned about the question of the film's possible anti-Semitism than about the level of the research on which the film rested. One parish priest, who criticised the film for its black and white approach, said "One theological adviser... and all those hair stylist credits at the end!"

The film goes on release in Ireland on March 12 with a 15PG certificate from the Irish Film Censor who has stated his belief that the film is not anti-Semitic but has cautioned audiences on the graphic nature of the violence shown in the film.