Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ has received an 18 certificate from UK censor, the British Board Of Film Classification.

The censor ruled that the film, which is expected to open through Icon Film Distribution on March 26, "contains extended scenes of strong violence."

A spokeswoman for the BBFC cited an extended scene in which Jesus was "viscously whipped with flesh flying about and large amounts of blood" and the whole sequence of the crucifixion itself.

Such scenes were deemed to go beyond the BBFC's 15 certificate, which rules that violence "may be strong, but may not dwell on infliction of pain and injuries."

56 - or less than ten percent - of the 588 films classified by the BBFC last year received an 18 rating.

The Passion has received an 'R' rating in the US and a 15PG certificate in Ireland.

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