Church filming ban for Da Vinci Code prequel

ROME’S diocese said yesterday it has barred the producers of Angels & Demons from filming in two churches for the prequel to The Da Vinci Code, the popular book and film that angered many Catholic leaders.

Producers of the film, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, were turned down because the film “does not conform to our views,” said Monsignor Marco Fibbi for the diocese.

The crew had asked to film in the churches of Santa Maria del Popolo and Santa Maria della Vittoria, two architectural jewels in the heart of Rome that include paintings by Caravaggio, sculptures by Bernini and a chapel designed by Raphael.

Permission was denied in 2007, but the issue surfaced only now that filming is ongoing in Rome, Fibbi said. The Sony-produced film was put on hold during the Writers Guild of America strike that ended in February and is now scheduled for release in May 2009.

“It’s a film that treats religious issues in a way that contrasts with common religious sentiment,” Monsignor Fibbi said.

“We would be helping them create a work that might well be beautiful but that does not conform to our views.”

He added that the ban would not stop filming of the churches’ exteriors.

Fibbi acknowledged that the controversy over writer Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and its blockbuster film version had weighed on the decision.

The story drew anger and prompted calls for boycotts by church leaders worldwide with the idea that Jesus married and fathered children, and by depicting the conservative Catholic movement, Opus Dei, as a murderous cult.

Brown’s Angels and Demons is a religious thriller combining an ancient secret brotherhood called the Illuminati, a papal conclave and a weapon threatening to destroy the Vatican.

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