April 14, 2006

Papal preacher blasts Da Vinci Code, Judas gospel

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A Vatican official on Friday
railed against "The Da Vinci Code," branding the book and its
upcoming film version as just more examples of Jesus being sold
out by a wave of what he called "pseudo-historic" art.

The official, preaching in the presence of Pope Benedict,
also condemned the so-called "Gospel of Judas," an alternative
view to traditional Christian teaching which has received wide
media attention recently.

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, whose official title is
"Preacher of the Papal Household," made his comments in a
sermon during a "Passion of the Lord" service in St Peter's
Basilica commemorating Christ's death.

In his sermon, Cantalamessa made several scathing
references to The Da Vinci Code, without specifically
mentioning the name of the worldwide bestseller.

He said that people today were fascinated by "every new
theory according to which he (Christ) was not crucified and did
not die ... but ran off with Mary Magdalene"

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. Christians are taught that Jesus
never married, was crucified and rose from the dead.

Cantalamessa then turned his ire to the film version of
"The Da Vinci Code" starring Tom Hanks, which is due to be
released next month.

"No one will be able to stop this wave of speculation,
which will see a sharp increase with the imminent release of a
certain film," he said.

Cantalamessa several times dismissed "The Gospel of Judas,"
which claims that it was Christ himself who asked Judas to
betray him. The Gospel of Judas received wide attention
recently in media stories about the discovery of a
1,700-year-old copy.

The so-called Gospel of Judas was already declared a heresy
by the early Church about two centuries after Christ died.

The Passion of the Lord service was the first of two events
in which the 78-year-old German Pope, approaching the first
Easter of his reign, was commemorating the crucifixion of death
of Christ on Good Friday.

His predecessor John Paul was in his dying days for all of
last year's Easter season and was only able to make brief
appearances in the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

John Paul died on April 2, a week after Easter.

On Friday night the Pope was leading a Via Crucis (Way of
the Cross) procession around the ancient ruins of Rome's

He says an Easter Eve mass on Saturday night and on Sunday
will deliver an "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world)
blessing and message.