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Vatican steps up fight against ‘Da Vinci’ film

Novel full of ‘offenses,’ says archbishop close to pope as he urges boycott
An enormous poster, promoting "The Da Vinci Code" movie is seen , Tuesday, April 25, 2006, on the scaffolded facade of the church of St. Pantaleo, located just off a major thoroughfare in Rome's historic center. Italy's Interior Ministry said Tuesday, April 24, it would remove the poster, featuring a picture of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and the upcoming film's title, after church officials complained.The Rev. Marco Fibbi, a spokesman for Rome's Vicariate, said the poster was "causing a problem." Church officials have spoken out repeatedly against the best-selling novel by Dan Brown and the upcoming film adaptation, which stars Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou and is scheduled for release May 19. Alessandra Tarantino / AP
/ Source: Reuters

The Vatican stepped up its offensive against “The Da Vinci Code” on Friday when a top official close to Pope Benedict blasted the book as full of anti-Christian lies and urged Catholics to boycott the film.

The latest broadside came from Archbishop Angelo Amato, the number two official in the Vatican doctrinal office which was headed by Pope Benedict until his election last year.

Amato, addressing a Catholic conference in Rome, called the book “stridently anti-Christian .. full of calumnies, offenses and historical and theological errors regarding Jesus, the Gospels and the Church.” He added: “I hope that you all will boycott the film.”

The movie, which is being released by Sony Pictures division Columbia Pictures, stars Tom Hanks and premieres next month at the Cannes film festival in France. Sony Pictures is the media wing of Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp.

Amato said the book, written by Dan Brown, had been hugely successful around the world thanks in part to what he called “the extreme cultural poverty on the part of a good number of the Christian faithful.”

The book has sold over 40 million copies.

The novel is an international murder mystery centred on attempts to uncover a secret about the life of Christ that a clandestine society has tried to protect for centuries.

The central tenet of the book is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children.

‘Unpunished’ defamation?In his address to the group, Amato said Christians should be more willing “to reject lies and gratuitous defamation.”

He said that if “such lies and errors had been directed at the Koran or the Holocaust they would have justly provoked a world uprising.”

He added: “Instead, if they are directed against the Church and Christians, they remain unpunished.”

Amato’s broadside was just the latest blast against the book and the film.

Just before Easter, another Vatican official railed against it at an event attended by Pope Benedict, branding the book and its film version as just more examples of Jesus being sold out by a wave of what he called “pseudo-historic” art.

Catholic group Opus Dei has told Sony Pictures that putting a disclaimer on the movie stressing it is a work of fiction would be a welcome show of respect toward the Church.

In the novel and film, Opus Dei is characterised as a secretive group that has for centuries worked to obscure truths about Jesus Christ.

With the movie’s opening less than a month away, Opus Dei and other Christian groups have been sponsoring Web sites and events telling people the novel should not be believed.

The book is a thriller in which the main characters must uncover clues they hope will lead them to an important religious relic. Their adversary is an Opus Dei member.