Fury as church plugs 'Da Vinci Code'

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The Independent Online

For months the Vatican has been campaigning against Dan Brown's thriller The Da Vinci Code, which casts doubt on the orthodox account of the life of Jesus and depicts the Opus Dei organisation as fanatical and murderous.

"Don't read this book, it is rotten food!" declared Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Archbishop of Genoa. "This book is a sackful of lies against the Church, against the real history of Christianity and against Christ himself!"

But then at the climax of Holy Week a huge advertisement for the film of Brown's novel appeared on the façade of the ancient church of San Pantaleo in central Rome. Rome's ancient masterpieces are frequently shrouded in enormous advertisements when they are being refurbished: the net covering the scaffolding is used as a giant hoarding, and the income from the advertisements helps defray expenses. But when senior clerics saw the Mona Lisa's eyes gazing down from the San Pantaleo's 16th-century façade, advertising the opening on 19 May of the film of the book, they were livid.

Marco Fibbi, a spokesman for Rome's Vicariate, responsible for what happens in the Church, said the advertisement was causing a problem. He said: "This film is not highly appreciated in ecclesiastical circles."

According to La Repubblica newspaper, the advertisement was installedwhile the local priest, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, was preaching his Good Friday sermon inside. He said: "Christ has been sold again, this time not for 30 pieces of silver but to publishers and bookshops for billions."

The Interior Ministry said the advertisement would be removed within the next few days.