Passionate Profits

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Mel Gibson's controversial and acclaimed hit The Passion Of The Christ is creating a new passion for all things religious, and local stores are packing in profits.

"We have the passion every year of course for lent, but this year has been phenomenal because of the movie. It's brought Catholics and non-Catholics into the store," says Jim Tulley, a consultant for Vineyard Books & Gifts.

Sales jumped at local religious stores even before the movie hit theaters and demand for Passion merchandise continues.

"We probably have 10 or 12 different items that pertain strictly to the movie and have been moving very, very well," says Tulley.

"Other items that we've had for sale all along have really moved because they tie in to The Passion,” says Vineyard manager, Marie Abel.

There are coffee mugs, necklaces, books; you can even wear a replica of the scapular worn by Gibson.

Store managers say one of the most popular items is a book published in Rockford. The publication reportedly inspired Mel Gibson to create The Passion Of The Christ.

"I was fascinated by the pictures. It's actually a scene of the actual movie. It just puts a whole new meaning to my religion," says Rockford resident Emma Lou DeBlauw.

DeBlauw hasn't even seen the film yet, but she's eager to get her hands on a piece of The Passion.

"Every time I come into the store there's always something new that's come out. Just another little symbol of something that brings you closer to Jesus."