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Cardinal: Viewers will see ‘Da Vinci’ as fact

Vatican culture minister takes issue with film's blend of truth and fiction
/ Source: Reuters

The popularity of “The Da Vinci Code” is a shocking indication of mass ignorance and the “voluptuous pleasure” the media take in promoting works with no basis in truth, the Vatican’s culture minister said Monday.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told Europe 1 radio he had no objection to people seeing the film if they understand it is fiction, but many would watch this “nonsense” and think that it was true.

The film adaptation of the best-selling novel, which centers on the premise that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdelene and that the Roman Catholic Church hushed this up, debuts at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday.

Poupard is the Vatican’s highest authority on cultural issues after Pope Benedict.

“This is a shocking and worrying cultural phenomenon that reflects, on the one hand, the ignorance of millions of people and, on the other, the voluptuous pleasure the media take in promoting products that have nothing to do with the truth,” the 75-year-old French-born cardinal told the radio station.

Italy’s most senior cardinal, Camillo Ruini, also lambasted the film’s plot as “fantasies and falsifications” but said he believed people were more fascinated by truth than illusions.

Poupard said the media showed no interest in a Dictionary of Religions he edited with contributions from leading experts.

“If a product that mixes up claims made as fact, fiction and so on, and comes out with elucubrations that have no relation to history, the whole world’s media promote it,” he said.

Elucubrations are laboriously written scholarly works.

“If it is clear this has nothing to do with truth and it amuses you to go see it, why not?” he said when asked if movie-goers should boycott the film, which stars Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou.

‘The fascination with truth is stronger’In recent weeks, cardinals have urged everything from a boycott of the film by Catholics to legal action against both the novel and the film.

Poupard did not back those stands but expressed concern about the effects it could have on the ordinary Catholics.

“What I’m concerned about is that decent people who do not have the proper religious education will take this nonsense for the real thing,” said the cardinal, who has headed the Pontifical Council for Culture since 1988.

Asked if he would see the film, Poupard said: “I don’t plan to because life is short and I have a lot of things to do.”

Ruini said the film underscored the Church’s need to teach the faith more energetically so people could know how to tell fact from fiction.

Addressing the Italian Bishops’ Conference, which he heads, Ruini said the film represented “a radical and above all unfounded challenge to the heart of our faith.”

“Even in this case, however, one must not cede to pessimism. In the end, the fascination with the truth is stronger than the fascination with illusion,” Ruini said.