A new Catholic website aimed at Da Vinci fans is timed to coincide with today’s feast of St Mary Magdalene, depicted in the book as the sacred vessel, or Holy Grail, who bore Jesus Christ’s children. The site, designed by the Catholic Enquiry Office (CEO), a national office of the Church, includes biographies of St Mary, Bible extracts, prayers, articles, web links, images and a cake recipe.
It includes question-andanswer sessions listing alleged historical, artistic and religious errors in the book, such as its depiction of the Catholic organisation Opus Dei.
The website promotes Mary Magdalene, believed to have been a former prostitute, as a “faithful follower” of Jesus Christ who had done wrongs but whose life was changed by her experience of God’s “unconditional love and mercy”. The Church is hoping not only to counter the book’s claim of a secret bloodline descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene, but also to capitalise on the increased interest in Christianity that the work has generated.
Since the death of Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation, set up last year, has been fielding six inquiries a day or more from callers interested in converting to Catholicism. The Da Vinci Code has sold 25 million copies worldwide. Filming takes place next month at Lincoln Cathedral for sections of the book set in Westminster Abbey. The film, starring Sir Ian McKellen, Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, is to be made in Lincoln after the Abbey refused permission, denouncing the book as theologically unsound.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the prelate appointed by the Vatican to defend the Church’s reputation, has described the novel as a “castle of lies” that “distorted” the truth.
Cardinal Bertone, the Archbishop of Genoa, says that the novel is a deliberate attempt to discredit the Catholic Church through absurd and vulgar falsifications.
The Catholic Church in England and Wales believes that the book’s success reveals “a widespread thirst for the truth” and hopes that its own website will be “of service” to Brown enthusiasts.
Monsignor Keith Barltrop, the director of the CEO, said: “We are not trying to take on The Da Vinci Code.” Rather the Church was “shameless” in availing itself of the chance to evangelise, he said.
He added: “There is huge interest in the book. It poses as the truth but it clearly is not. It is a damn good read but it is a long way from the truth.
“People are engaged in a lot of things, from aromatherapy through to tarot cards to this sort of thing. Rather than be negative about it, we see it as symptomatic of a seeking mentality that, for whatever reason, does not get channelled to organised religion.”
He said that The Da Vinci Code appealed because it came across as “unorthodox, exciting and risky”. He added: “That answers something quite powerful in people.”