LOS ANGELES, Apr 18 (Reuters) Catholic group Opus Dei has told Sony Pictures that putting a disclaimer on the upcoming movie ''The Da Vinci Code'' stressing it is a work of fiction would be a welcome show of respect toward the Church.
In the novel ''The Da Vinci Code,'' on which the film is based, Opus Dei is characterised as a secretive group that has for centuries worked to obscure truths about Jesus Christ.
With the movie's opening a month away, Opus Dei and other Christian groups have been sponsoring Web sites telling people the novel should not be believed.
A letter posted on Good Friday holiday on Opus Dei's Web site cites media reports as saying Sony Pictures may consider a disclaimer.
''An eventual decision of Sony in this direction would be a sign of respect towards the figure of Jesus Christ, the history of the Church, and the religious beliefs of viewers,'' the group said in the letter.
Written by Dan Brown, ''The Da Vinci Code'' 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. The book has sold over 40 million copies.
The plot centers on the search by a man and woman team who use clues in Leonardo Da Vinci's works in a hunt for the ''Holy Grail.'' Christian leaders are up in arms over the novel's assertion that Jesus wed Mary Magdalene and sired her child.
The movie, which is being released by Sony Pictures division Columbia Pictures, stars Tom Hanks and premieres in May at the Cannes film festival in France. Sony Pictures is the media wing of Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp.
''We have no plans to reveal any details regarding what is or isn't in the film until the release,'' a Sony Pictures spokesman said in a statement.
Spokesman Jim Kennedy noted Sony Pictures always viewed the movie as a ''a work of fiction ... a thriller, not a religious tract. We believe the filmmakers are going to deliver an exciting movie that will delight audiences, not offend them.'' Kennedy also noted that Sony Pictures is supporting a Web site, thedavincidialogue.com, where interested people can read expert opinions about issues raised by the book and movie.
Other Web sites have cropped up, too. Among them, the Philadelphia-based Westminster Theological Seminary sponsors thetruthaboutdavinci.com. and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has davincioutreach.com.
REUTERS SHB HS0945