Group close to Vatican says disclaimer on 'Da Vinci Code' film would show respect

Opus Dei, a conservative religious organization close to the Vatican, has told Sony that a disclaimer on the soon-to-be-released film based on "The Da Vinci Code" would show respect to Jesus and to the Catholic Church.

The runaway best-selling novel by Dan Brown portrays Opus Dei as a murderous, power-hungry sect. The story contends that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had descendants, and that Opus Dei and the Catholic Church were at the center of covering that up.

"Some media have written that Sony is examining the possibility of putting at the beginning of the film an announcement to clarify that it is a work of fantasy and that any similarity with reality is purely coincidental," Opus Dei said in a statement on its Italian Web site on Saturday.

"Any such decision by Sony would be a gesture of respect toward the figure of Jesus, to the history of the Church and to the religious beliefs of viewers," Opus Dei wrote in its letter.

The organization, which enjoyed the favor of the late Pope John Paul II, said it wrote to officials of Sony Corp. in Japan last week.

Sony Pictures Entertainment said in February that the work is not a religious one and is not meant to criticize any group, religious or otherwise. The film, starting Tom Hanks, is scheduled for release next month.

In February, Opus Dei said it had no intention of calling for a boycott of the film, but said it hoped the final edit would be changed so that it would not offend the faithful. It has described "The Da Vinci Code" as offering a deformed image of the Catholic Church.

Opus Dei's letter to Sony concluded with a wish for "peace, health and prosperity."

On Friday, in a Good Friday homily before Pope Benedict XVI, the preacher for the papal household denounced theories that make huge profits in denying Church teaching about Jesus.

"Christ is still sold, but not any more for 30 coins," the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa said in his homily in St. Peter's Basilica, referring to Jesus' betrayal before his crucifixion by the Apostle Judas, "but (sold) to publishers and booksellers for billions of coins."

Cantalamessa, a Franciscan priest, did not cite the Dan Brown novel by name, but he obviously appeared to refer to it and to the upcoming movie based on the book.

"No one succeeds in stopping this speculative wave, that instead will be register a boom with the imminent release of a certain film," the preacher said.

Last year an Italian cardinal, Tarcisio Bertone, called for a boycott of the book. Bertone was formerly a top aide in the Vatican's office safeguarding orthodoxy when the office was headed by German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict, reports AP.

O.Ch.