Tuesday, May 09, 2006
IN the latest Vatican broadside against "The Da Vinci Code," a leading cardinal says Christians should respond to the book and film with legal action because both offend Christ and the Church he founded.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian who was considered a candidate for pope last year, made his strong comments in a documentary called "The Da Vinci Code-A Masterful Deception."
Arinze's appeal came some 10 days after another Vatican cardinal called for a boycott of the film. Both cardinals asserted that other religions would never stand for offences against their beliefs and that Christians should get tough.
"Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget," Arinze said in the documentary made by Rome film maker Mario Biasetti for Rome Reports, a Catholic film agency specializing in religious affairs.
"Sometimes it is our duty to do something practical. So it is not I who will tell all Christians what to do but some know legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others," Arinze said.
"This is one of the fundamental human rights: that we should be respected, our religious beliefs respected, and our founder Jesus Christ respected," he said, without elaborating on what legal means he had in mind.
A transcript of the documentary, due to be screened in Rome later this month just before the release of the film version of the best-selling book at the Cannes Film Festival, was made available to Reuters.
The book, written by Dan Brown, has sold more than 40 million copies.
The novel is an international murder mystery centered 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.
"Those who blaspheme Christ and get away with it are exploiting the Christian readiness to forgive and to love even those who insult us. There are some other religions which if you insult their founder they will not be just talking. They will make it painfully clear to you," Arinze said.
This appeared to be a reference to protests by Muslims around the world over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
Last month, another broadside against "The Da Vinci Code" was launched by Archbishop Angelo Amato, the number two official in the Vatican doctrinal office which was headed by Pope Benedict until his election last year.
Amato urged a boycott of the film and Arinze, like his fellow cardinal, also blasted the credibility of the book.
"'The Da Vinci Code' presents (Christianity) wrongly ... any film produced on the basis of that book is already in error from the word go, no matter how interesting it might appear," Arinze said.
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 characterized 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.
The movie, which is being released by Sony Pictures division Columbia Pictures, stars Tom Hanks. Sony Pictures is the media wing of Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp. (Vatican News)