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Mel says ‘Passion’ film will inspire, not offend

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Mel Gibson insists his forthcoming film about Jesus Christ will "inspire, not offend" Catholics and Jews.

The movie, which the actor directs, stars James Caviezel as Christ during the last 12 hours of his life and Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene. The reported $25 million production will feature dialogue only in Latin and Aramaic with no English subtitles.

" 'The Passion' is a movie meant to inspire, not offend," Gibson said in a statement published Friday in the trade newspaper Variety. "My intention in bringing it to the screen is to create a lasting work of art and engender serious thought among audiences of diverse faith backgrounds."

He made the statement to rebut criticism that "The Passion" is anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic, Variety reported. The remarks came as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had been critical of "The Passion," apologized for attacking a film that is still unreleased.

The film has not yet found a distributor.

"If the intense scrutiny during my 25 years in public life revealed I had ever persecuted or discriminated against anyone based on race or creed, I would be all too willing to make amends. But there is no such record," the actor's statement read.