Christians in China believe their communist government won’t show “The Passion of the Christ,” but pirated copies of the film on Jesus’ suffering and death are playing to small gatherings throughout the country.

The private viewings with poorly made DVD copies and Chinese subtitles are accompanied by prayer gatherings and questions by young agnostics who want to know more about Christian faith, reports UCAN, the Union of Catholic Asian News in Hong Kong.

“The Passion” has “struck a heavy blow against atheism,” says one Chinese youth.

A Catholic priest in the underground church said he was so moved by the film he plans to show it to parishioners on Good Friday, April 9, the day commemorating Jesus’ crucifixion, UCAN reported.

The priest told UCAN he bought the DVD copy on the street for the equivalent of about $1.

“The quality is not good and the Chinese translation is lousy. But for those of us who know the Bible, we know what’s going on,” he said.

Under pressure internationally, the Chinese government has cracked down on pirated videos, but a priest in the government-approved Catholic Church has encouraged his parishioners to watch the film by Mel Gibson, which has generated more than $300 million in box office receipts.

A Chinese webmaster who asked to remain anonymous, said the film has created a buzz on Internet discussion forums in China, and quite “a number of laypeople have said they felt their faith strengthened” after watching it.

Some Protestant websites allow the film to be downloaded from a site in China.

“My Protestant friends praised the film after watching it,” the webmaster told UCAN.

The webmaster noted China’s strict censorship and government-sponsored atheism, which teaches Jesus was a mythical character, makes it likely “The Passion” would be banned as a challenge to state authority.

“What’s more,” he said, “‘The Passion’ is a very powerful evangelization tool, so it is highly unlikely it will be shown publicly in China,” he said.

But the movie’s huge success in China, reflected in the demand for pirated DVDs, has “struck a heavy blow against atheism,” he said.

Yunnan Catholic Online, in Kunming, more than 1,300 miles southwest of Beijing, said a local layman reported he attended two private viewings where many Catholics cried, and a few even screamed when they saw Jesus being scourged, according to UCAN.

In Tangshan, about 100 miles southeast of Beijing, a Catholic university student recommended the film to friends.

Afterward, “one of them asked me to tell him more stories of the Bible, and another expressed his wish to join the Church,” he said.

“The Passion of the Christ” will open at the beginning of April in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, but the Hong Kong media affirm the film is unlikely to be shown in mainland China because of its religious nature.

In Hong Kong, at least 50 special screenings are scheduled for Catholic and Protestant groups.

Editor’s note: Coinciding with the release of Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ,” WorldNetDaily has issued one of the most extraordinary editions of its monthly Whistleblower magazine ever produced, titled “THE DAY JESUS DIED.”

Read WorldNetDaily’s extensive coverage of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

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