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Boycott Da Vinci Code film: Top Vatican official

Written by: Staff

Rome, Apr 29: The Vatican stepped up its offensive against 'The Da Vinci Code' 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 yesterday, called the book ''stridently anti-Christian .. full of calumnies, offences 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 <6758.T>.

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.

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 suggested that Catholics around the world should launch organised protests against the ''The Da Vinci Code'' film just as some had done in 1988 to protest against Martin Scorsese's ''The Last Temptation of Christ.'' LATEST BROADSIDE 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 the latest in a series of secretive groups that worked over the centuries to obscure truths about Jesus Christ.

Opus Dei is a controversial conservative Church group whose members are mostly non-clerics and are urged to seek holiness in their everyday professional jobs and lives. It has rejected criticisms that it is secretive and elitist.

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.


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