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Papal preacher blasts Da Vinci Code, Judas gospel

Written by: Staff
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VATICAN CITY, Apr 15 (Reuters) A Vatican official railed against ''The Da Vinci Code'', branding the book and its upcoming film version as just more examples of Jesus being sold out by a wave of what he called ''pseudo-historic'' art.

Yesterday the official, preaching in the presence of Pope Benedict, also condemned the so-called ''Gospel of Judas'', an alternative view to traditional Christian teaching which has received wide media attention recently.

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, whose official title is ''Preacher of the Papal Household'', made his comments in a sermon during a ''Passion of the Lord'' service in St Peter's Basilica commemorating Christ's death.

In his sermon, Cantalamessa made several scathing references to The Da Vinci Code, without specifically mentioning the name of the worldwide bestseller.

He said that people today were fascinated by ''every new theory according to which he (Christ) was not crucified and did not die ...

but ran off with Mary Magdalene'' 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. Christians are taught that Jesus never married, was crucified and rose from the dead.

Cantalamessa then turned his ire to the film version of ''The Da Vinci Code'' starring Tom Hanks, which is due to be released next month.

''No one will be able to stop this wave of speculation, which will see a sharp increase with the imminent release of a certain film,'' he said.

Cantalamessa several times dismissed ''The Gospel of Judas'', which claims that it was Christ himself who asked Judas to betray him. The Gospel of Judas received wide attention recently in media stories about the discovery of a 1,700-year-old copy.

The so-called Gospel of Judas was already declared a heresy by the early Church about two centuries after Christ died.

The Passion of the Lord service was the first of two events in which the 78-year-old German Pope, approaching the first Easter of his reign, was commemorating the crucifixion of death of Christ on Good Friday.

His predecessor John Paul was in his dying days for all of last year's Easter season and was only able to make brief appearances in the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

John Paul died on April 2, a week after Easter.

Yesterday night the Pope was leading a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around the ancient ruins of Rome's Colosseum.

He says an Easter Eve mass tonight and tomorrow will deliver an ''Urbi et Orbi'' (to the city and the world) blessing and message.

REUTERS OM RAI0939

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