Italy unchains ‘Christ’

Controversial pic gets G rating

ROME — Italy has given “The Passion of the Christ” a general-admission rating, making the cradle of Catholicism the only country so far where Mel Gibson’s gory pic will go out unrestricted.

“We think that kids who have already received their first communion and know the Gospel also know exactly what Christ’s passion is,” said Ennio Varanelli, president of the commission that issued the G rating.

As for younger children, it will be up to families to decide, he added. “They all know its content perfectly well.”

“The Passion” will roll out on 600-plus screens April 7, Holy Wednesday, the final day of pre-Easter station-of-the-cross processions. Handling distribution will be Eagle Pictures, the first distrib to pick up the pic.

Largely Catholic Mexico recently gave “The Passion” an over-18 rating, whereas in Ireland it has been deemed suitable for 15 and above.

The rating comes one day after Italy’s national bishops conference gave “The Passion” the thumbs up. The generous G is all the more remarkable because it comes three weeks before pic’s release: Ratings are customarily ruled just a week in advance.

The rating system is rife with contradictions. “Hannibal,” which was rated R in the U.S., got a G here in 2001.

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