A/V Room









Church versus Da Vinci Code

Feature by Lizzie Guilfoyle

PERHAPS not surprisingly, a senior member of the Roman Catholic church has spoken out against what he calls the "shameful and unfounded lies" in Dan Brown's best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code.

The book's central claim is that the Holy Grail is really the bloodline descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene who, it says, can be seen sitting at the right hand of Jesus in Leonardo Da Vinci painting of The Last Supper.

In fact, it goes so far as to say that the church branded Mary Magdalene a prostitute in order to underplay the female role in Christianity.

Bearing in mind that Brown's novel has been a publishing sensation round the world and is still on best-seller lists, the implications of these allegations are enormous.

And, according to reports in Italian newspaper Il Giornale, they have prompted an angry response from the Bishop of Genoa, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the cardinal at the centre of the storm.

He said: "It astonishes and worries me that so many people believe these lies" and added, "The book is everywhere. There is a very real risk that many people who read it will believe that the fables it contains are true."

This is particularly pertinent in view of Brown's own claim: "All of the art, architecture, secret rituals, secret societies, all of that is historical fact."

Although the Vatican hasn't released any official comment on Brown, it's worth noting that, for a number of years, Cardinal Bertone held a senior position in the Vatican's most powerful department - the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

But as he explained: " I have not been given a special duty from the Vatican to criticise this book. But my opinion, my initiative has found a positive echo amongst many cardinals who are saying, 'finally someone has the courage to speak.'"

To this end, he recently participated in a three-hour debate on the subject, in a packed auditorium in Genoa's city centre.

However, not all clergy have denounced it. The newly appointed bishop of Sao Paulo in Brazil, Monsignor Jose Pinheiro, urged readers to exercise prudence but added: "I don't know if people are capable of distinguishing the elements of fiction from those of reality.

It is important to talk to young people about it so that they can differentiate, but I don't think it's necessary to ban its reading."

This is a direct contradiction of Bertone's suggestion that Catholics shun the book and Catholic booksellers remove it from their shelves.

But with Hollywood set to unleash a film adaptation with big name stars - Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno - the controversy looks set to continue.

That apart, The Da Vinci Code has meant big business in more ways than one. As well as the original novel published in 2003, there have been a total of ten books written solely to discredit its claims, as well as one in-depth TV documentary hosted by Tony Robinson. Even the tourist industry has cashed-in on the furore with tours of relevant sites, most notably in Paris, where much of the book is set.

Perhaps the last words - for now at least - should come from those actually responsible for the book and its publication.

Although unavailable for comment - Brown is, according to his agent, currently writing a new book and therefore "incommunicado" - his website nevertheless, rejects anti-Christian claims about his work.

And publishers Doubleday said they "respect Cardinal Bertone and the Vatican" and will undertake "to clarify any factual errors they feel may have been made in The Da Vinci Code." But they insisted that the book simply explored centuries-old ideas "in an accessible work of fiction."



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