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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 10:24 GMT
US TV set for 'Jesus wife' storm
Caravaggio's Christ
A theory suggests Christ had a wife and a child
A leading US TV news reporter has said her network is taking a risk with a news special which asks whether Jesus Christ had a wife.

ABC's Elizabeth Vargas said Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci, to be shown in the US on Monday night, was being made "as respectfully as we can".

But she admitted: "You can't talk about this subject without intriguing people or offending people."

The programme is partly based on the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code.

The book alleges Mary Magdalene - a biblical figure widely thought to have been a prostitute - was actually Jesus's wife.

The book also asserts Magdalene fled Jerusalem with Jesus' child after his crucifixion.

For me, it's made religion more real and, ironically, much more interesting
ABC reporter Elizabeth Vargas

This story was supposed to have been kept alive by a secret society that included the medieval painter and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci.

Da Vinci left clues about the story in his art, the novel alleged.

ABC have already screened the special, which talks to some theologians to try and unravel the theory, for some journalists and religious leaders.

'Crackpot theory'

It has already drawn criticism from a representative of the Catholic League, Joseph Feo, who said the news special had relied too much on the opinions of Father Richard McBrien of Notre Dame.

Father McBrien is said to believe the historical importance of Mary Magdalene had been under-rated.

Mr De Feo said: "The majority of the people who spoke believed in either the plausibility or the outright truth of [book author] Dan Brown's claims. The facts themselves scream out that this is a crackpot theory."

Vargas said ABC had not found any proof as to whether Jesus had a wife, but could not completely discount the theory either.

"For me, it's made religion more real and, ironically, much more interesting - which is what we're hoping to do for our viewers," she said.

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