Philippine Bishops Endorse 'The Passion'

Church leaders in the Philippines say they are endorsing ''The Passion of the Christ,'' dismissing criticism that the Mel Gibson film is anti-Semitic.

The film, which graphically depicts the passion and death of Jesus, was screened for the Philippine bishops' conference late Tuesday ahead of its public showing here, Agence France-Presse said.

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales told reporters he believed Gibson intended to raise awareness about growing violence all over the world. ''I think I would recommend it to every Filipino to see it who believes in goodness and accepts the reality of evil,'' the archbishop said.

In the United States, "The Passion of the Christ" remained the top film for a second straight weekend, taking in $53.2 million and pushing its 12-day total to $213.9 million, the Associated Press said.