Church leaders condemn new film

ANGLICAN and Catholic leaders in East Anglia were united last night in their condemnation of controversial film The Da Vinci Code - but stopped short of calling for an outright ban.

By Danielle Nuttall

ANGLICAN and Catholic leaders in East Anglia were united last night in their condemnation of controversial film The Da Vinci Code - but stopped short of calling for an outright ban.

Church representatives said the film, adapted from Dan Brown's best-selling novel of the same name, painted Christianity in a negative light and should carry a warning stating that it is not based on fact.

But they added that in the interest of democracy, it should still be screened so that people could make up their own mind.

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The film, which has sparked outrage among Christian groups across the globe because of its assertions about the life of Jesus and the Christian doctrine, is expected to be the major blockbuster of the year.

The central theme of the film is that Jesus had children with Mary Magdalene and the bloodline survives to this day.

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Father Francis Leeder, from St Pancras Roman Catholic Church in Ipswich, said yesterday: “There is absolutely no evidence at all to support or to suggest Jesus survived after his death on the cross to live a quiet life somewhere - presumably the Holy Land - with Mary Magdalene and had children.

“I don't like how it puts it over as if it was fact. There are no grounds for most of the claims in it.

“It's so powerful and well done that it's important to emphasise it is only fiction and there is no historical or scientific evidence for the claims made in it.

“It should be clear that it's pure fantasy. I cannot help feeling if similar claims were made about some other religious leaders there would be a big outcry. Us Christians tend to get a rough deal on this.”

Anglican churchman Keith Meldrum, children's youth and family worker at St Edmunds Church in Southwold, agreed that the film's content was negative towards Christianity.

“It's fair to say it paints a negative picture of the Christian church as have an awful lot of other books,” he said.

But he added: “The Christian church is big enough to respond to that without insisting it gets banned.

“Effectively, it is saying what you get told in the Bible is untrue. If people take that as fact then I would think they would think negatively as a result.

“I don't think for one minute there is a sinister part of the Vatican that has this great secret. It's a device to make the story more compelling and is not based on truth at all.

“But personally, I think censoring and banning things adds a huge amount of attention to them. I don't really think there is anything in the film that people should not be allowed to see.”

The leader of the Roman Catholic church in Essex, the Right Reverend Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood, said: “I have two causes for concern re: The Da Vinci Code.

“First, it is actually trading fiction as fact and has become so real in people's minds that they are looking for locations mentioned in the book. Second, whereas in previous ages people would have a working knowledge of the Bible and experience of Christianity against which to measure it, this book now fills a void.

“As G K Chesterton said, when people cease to believe in God, it is not that they will believe in nothing but they will believe anything. Cardinal Hume always believed there is a religious instinct in every person, just as there is an instinct for love.”

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