Of course, he said it. This is nothing less than papal politics. Popes don't endorse things! Here is the latest statement from the Vatican and if you read Vaticanese, you'll understand what's really being said here.
From the V.I.S.:
"After consultation with the Holy Father's personal secretary, Archbishop
Stanislaw Dziwisz, I can confirm that the Pope has had the opportunity to
see the film, 'The Passion of the Christ'. The film is the cinematographic
recounting of the historical fact of the passion of Jesus Christ according
to the Gospel accounts.
"It is the Holy Father's custom not to express public judgments on
artistic works, judgments which are always open to diverse evaluations of an