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'Da Vinci Code' Film Vexes Opus Dei, Vatican

Before and after views of the 5-story ad for 'The Da Vinci Code,' removed from the facade of Rome's San Pantaleo church in April.
Sylvia Poggioli, NPR
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Before and after views of the 5-story ad for 'The Da Vinci Code,' removed from the facade of Rome's San Pantaleo church in April.

Usually, the Vatican ignores books or movies that paint the church in unfavorable, controversial ways. Not this time. With 40 million copies of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code sold and the movie version set to open May 17, many Catholic leaders are becoming increasingly annoyed.

Critics say the book portrays the religious organization Opus Dei in a sinister light, while fans contend that it has opened an important dialogue about the role of women in the Catholic church.

In Rome last month, church officials were incensed when an ad for the movie -- a 5-story-high treatment featuring Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa -- was posted on the facade of Rome's San Pantaleo church, owned by the Italian ministry of the Interior. The ad quickly came down, following a protest letter from the papal vicar of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini.

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