The Italian Almanac

Cardinal Bertonr

Italian News - March 15

The Vatican has appointed a top cardinal to rebut what it says are the lies, distortions and errors in Dan Brown’s bestselling thriller The Da Vinci Code.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Archbishop of Genoa and a possible successor to the Pope, immediately took up the fight yesterday by claiming that the novel was a deliberate attempt to discredit the Roman Catholic Church through absurd and vulgar falsifications.

At the heart of the book is the notion that the Church has for centuries concealed the fact that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, a former prostitute, and that she bore him a child.

The appointment of Cardinal Bertone, 70, is a clear sign that the Vatican has been rattled by the continuing worldwide success of Brown’s thriller, which has sold 18 million copies in 44 languages in just two years. It is still among the top ten bestsellers in the United States, France, Brazil and Argentina - all countries with huge Catholic populations - and Britain.

A perceived blurring of fact and fiction has caused the Vatican to act. Andrea Tornielli, a papal biographer, said it was particularly alarmed at the sight of tourists in Rome using The Da Vinci Code as a guide to Christianity.

The cardinal, a former football commentator, is noted for his human touch, but he nonetheless wields considerable doctrinal authority within the Church. He has acted as deputy to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.