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Germany

"Passion of Christ" Not Suitable for Children

Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion of Christ," which arrives in German theaters on March 18, has been deemed "unsuitable viewing" for younger audiences and will receive an "under 16 not permitted" rating. Folker Hönge, chairman of the Voluntary Film Monitoring Committee, justified the age limit, saying the film's excessive violence makes it inappropriate for children and youths. There will also be no exception made for school groups or children accompanied by adults, as is often the case with restricted viewing. Cardinal Karl Lehmann, chairman of the German Bishop's Conference, has been equally critical of the Hollywood production, albeit for theological reasons. Speaking to the mass circulation Bild newspaper, the Catholic church leader said, "Gibson reduces the Bible's message in a problematic manner." Nonetheless, the film is receiving a good deal of promotion in Germany, and the release date has been moved ahead of the initially scheduled Easter opening.