Two days before the Da Vinci Code movie debuts at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, the Vatican has leapt into the sea of media hype surrounding the film in an attempt to fight "religious ignorance".
Cardinal Paul Poupard, the Vatican's highest authority on cultural issues after the Pope, on Wednesday told French radio Europe 1 that he did not object to people seeing the film if they understand it as fiction, but he feared many would watch this "nonsense" and think it was true.
"This is a shocking and worrying cultural phenomenon that reflects, on the one hand, the ignorance of millions of people, and on the other, the voluptuous pleasure the media take in promoting products that have nothing to do with the truth," he said.
Although the French-born cardinal did not back some Vatican cardinals' call to boycott the film, he worried about the consequences of the film on Catholics.
"What I'm concerned about is that decent people who do not have the proper religious education will take this nonsense for the real thing," said Poupard.
According to a recent poll published in French Christian weekly La Famille Chretienne, about one-third of the respondents believe the story written by Dan Brown. Up to 50 million copies of the book have been sold around the world.
Cardinal Georges Cottier, theologian of the Pope, qualified the book as "dangerous for the most credulous" in an interview published by French newspaper Le Figaro in its Monday edition.
He alleges that the novel claims the Church has been concealing the truth about Jesus Christ and it describes the Opus Dei Catholic organization as a secret association whose members will not hesitate to murder in order to reach their goals.
Cottier said the success of the best-seller was dreadful and alarming, and he questioned its role in the degradation of culture and intellect.