The Vatican has heavily criticised what it calls "shameful and unfounded lies" in US author Dan Brown's bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code.
The book's central claim is that the Holy Grail is the bloodline descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene, who were married and had a child. It claims the Church has suppressed this "truth", and has undermined the role of women in Christianity.
The author has claimed that the art, architecture, secret rituals and societies depicted in the novel are "historical fact".
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Archbishop of Genoa said he wants readers to see how "shameful and unfounded" the book is.
Do you agree with the Vatican's criticism of The Da Vinci Code novel? What do you think of the Da Vinci code?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Isn't it ironic that some of the greatest manipulators of the truth would attempt to defend it.
Da Vinci Code was on the best seller list for the past 6 months in Amman until the church decided to object so it got withdrawn.. Personally I think this is ridiculous. People are free to read whatever they want and believe whatever they want. People should be given credit in having enough brains to decide for themselves and not let an appointed higher authority decide on their behalf!
Zeina, Amman, Jordan
The Vatican is not investigating this book. It is a conference hosted by an individual diocesan bishop who happens to also hold the rank of Cardinal. The novel has never claimed to be the 'truth' regarding the Christian faith and hence the Vatican has no interest in it.
Janet Rogers, Warmington, Peterborough
The existence of the apocryphal gospels is an undisputed fact. The Roman Catholic Church is right to be fearful of more openness about the sources of its theology: its 2000-year long hold on power is entirely based on control over the "real truth" (regardless of whether it is possible that there is one). In fact, if Dan Brown certainly has the capacity to stimulate a crucial debate, he on the other hand actually says nothing new: the famous 19th century Russian novelist Tolstoj already wrote a pamphlet about the heavy manipulations of the gospels by the early fathers of the Christian Church. Dogma is the enemy of human intelligence: more debate is only to be welcomed as an historical opportunity to put to rest an ancient man-made myth and move over to newer frontiers of our civilization.
Luca, Milan, Italy
I studied in a Catholic school, was influenced a lot by the Catholic nuns in my formative years and have a great interest in Christianity. I read Dan Brown's bestseller with curiosity and enthusiasm but was disappointed with the way it ended after all the build-up. What struck me is that Brown played safe in the story and absolved the Christian church of any misdeeds. There is no need for the Vatican to over-react and make Dan Brown richer. Frankly as plots go, I would any day plump for an Arthur Conan Doyle.
Melanie Kumar, Bangalore, India
I'm pretty sure "The Da Vinci Code" is in the fiction section of our local bookstore. Why are people blindly accepting the written word as the truth without using their analytical judgement?
Stuart Capewell, Los Angeles, US. (ex-UK)
It's thought provoking but Dan Brown is no scholar.
Wendy, New Zealand
The only really offensive thing about 'The Da Vinci Code' is the quality of the writing. I suspect the Catholic Church has spoken out against it as a publicity stunt. Jesus actually never died; he works in a fast-food restaurant in Michigan, handling the shifts that Elvis can't.
Ian MacDougall, Tokyo, Japan
This was a rehash of the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail from the 1980's. All the claims were thoroughly debunked by the Channel 4 programme, "The Real Da Vinci Code" with Tony Robinson. The real mystery is why people swallow this utter rubbish.
Graeme Stickings, Newcastle upon Tyne
Many are understandably held in thrall of Dan Brown's storytelling. Unfortunately, they fail to remember that the book was picked up in the fiction section. If you want an example of faith unsubstantiated by histories look not to the Vatican. Instead speak to a devotee of the Da Vinci code.
Patrick Lamb, Avon, Connecticut, USA
The Cardinal is absolutely right to advise Catholics, spiritual direction is his vocation and our salvation.
Georgina Sadowski, Bicester, Oxfordshire, UK
The BBC recently ran a programme hosted by Tony Robinson, that in my opinion successfully discredited all of the author's "fact based" plotlines.
Jamie Stuart, Tavistock, Devon
Why do religious people get so easily upset about these things (Jerry Springer the opera?) Their "faith" is obviously very fragile. Nervous behaviour over these issues only seeks to fuel my secular opinions that religion is in fact immoral and that religion is "shameful and unfounded".
I do not agree with the Vatican, and think it foolish and counterproductive of them to make such a silly statement about a work of fiction. But, no doubt, the author is grateful for this free publicity.
John B, Milton Keynes, UK
Considering the bible itself is merely a book of many different stories, written many generations after Christ's death and considering Christianity merely borrowed elements from other religions, it seems a bit ironic and pretty typical of the Vatican to start complaining. Hypocrisy at its very best, as usual.
Antarro, Glasgow, UK
The book is an exciting and gripping read. But it is fiction. There are plenty of inaccuracies about places Brown describes in London and Paris (both cities I know extremely well). But I believe it is called, 'artistic license'.
Mark G, London, UK
So many books have been written about the Grail, this is just another one written from a slightly different angle. Pure speculation, just a very lucrative one!
People are convinced by very weak and unsupported arguments these days, although I suppose the status of the Bible shows that this isn't really a new phenomenon.
Chris, Sheffield, UK
I read this book and found it to be very interesting. I must wonder why the Catholic Church finds this book to be so offensive. There can be many interpretations of Christianity. As well, why must people feel threatened by fraternal societies such as The Priory of Sion or Free Masonry? If the Church says he is telling lies, prove it. Or is that possible?
Rod Redden, Stewiacke, Nova Scotia, Canada
As someone who holds utter contempt for organised religion, I find it interesting that the Church is so riled by this book. Maybe they are scared the truth may now be out there?
Gavin, Cardiff, Wales
Next they'll be telling us there is no such person as Gandalf and that Middle Earth does not exist! Somebody buy the Vatican a dictionary so they can look up 'fiction'!
There is no knowledge without research and no research is valid unless the sources are checked. It appears that both sides are guilty of using 'selected' truths in their arguments. The Bible is accepted on faith and has become a religion, do you want to elevate Brown's novel to the same?
Phill, Doncaster, UK
We're heading back to the days when the Catholic Church had an index of banned books. No wonder the churches are emptying in the West. This imploding institution needs to move into the 21st century fast or end up dying its natural death. Cardinal Bertone should make better use of his time - perhaps his recent work on the so-called Third Secret of Fatima makes it difficult for him to distinguish fact from fiction!
Why are people criticizing the Church for rejecting blasphemy? Fiction is one thing, but inventing lies that dement the basis of Christianity is just going too far!
The novel is an intelligent and interesting read that will make us question our existing faith and beliefs and at the same time examine our prevailing Christian values. The very key to understanding the essence of the novel is to have an open mind and a brave heart to say; I am receptive to new ideas and that learning should not be confined in the four walls of the Church.
Alexis Docruz-Mcbride, Philippines
The number of people visiting the (often Catholic owned) places named in the book has increased with its popularity, a statement such as this is likely to spark a renewed interest in the book, increasing visits and thus donations/entrance fees. Or is that just cynical.
As Gemma from London, said, "Get a grip." It's fiction. I am a Christian, and my faith was not shaken by reading this interesting though overlong and predictable novel. If all religions - Christian, Islamic, whatever - spent their efforts on eradicating starvation and injustice in the world, there would be fewer crises of faith.
Nancy, Virginia, USA
I only know what I know, which is relatively nothing. I certainly do not believe in anything that I do not know. It is a pity that this is not universally accepted and then conjecture and opinion would have no place in true knowledge!
David, Devon, UK
This is a story! Dan Brown is guilty of nothing other than writing a fascinating conspiracy-type story that gets people talking.
M Husted, Fleet
It's a great read and raises many a familiar question about the life and times of Jesus Christ. It doesn't unsurprisingly give any answers to the myriad of questions it poses (it is a book of fiction after all) but then neither does the Church and that's probably why the book has such an avid following. Surely if it starts an open and honest debate about the myths and truths around Jesus Christ that has only got to be a good thing.
Bryan, Scotland, UK
The Da Vinci Code is simply a good read. The fact that it has sparked such debate is testament to the interest the world has in Christianity and specifically the myth surrounding the Holy Grail.
Julian Hudson, Hong Kong
I have just started reading the Da Vinci code and am finding it absolutely gripping. Although, all the publicity that the Vatican has just managed to stir up for it has meant that the 'secret' has been spoiled for me as it has been so highly reported. It is a novel, and as such should not be seen as a historical document. Although maybe the Vatican should ask for a cut of the extra profits that will be generated by the extra publicity!
Alison, Stockport, UK
I see it as one best-selling work of fiction challenging another best-selling work of fiction.
Darren, Ashford Kent
I have read the novel and found it had a well thought through plot with a lot to make you think. It was not however to be taken seriously, writers have always gone for authorities and Dan Brown is no different, he has taken random conspiracy theories and moulded a plot out of them, that is all.
Chris, Bristol, UK
I suspect the reason a secret society remains secret is not because it holds some "truth" but that if it were exposed, that would be the end of it. All private organisations are elitist by nature and what better way to think oneself better than others than to think of oneself as a direct descendant of Christ? As one poster put it, it is an effort on some levels to make Christ a mere man when he was in fact, God incarnate.
Frank, Atlanta, USA
Of course the Vatican will criticise this book. Imagine if it was proven true and the Vatican had to recreate itself? The Da Vinci code makes as much sense to me as the story of Noah's Ark.
Dwayne Chastain, West Jefferson, Ohio
The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction. Anyone who reads it for spiritual insight or as a study of religious belief is misguided. Prior to reading this novel, I read Angels and Demons, another of Dan Brown's works. They are very similar in style, and the similarity made the Da Vinci Code much less appealing to me. In fact, I had to skim through to the end because I could not endure more of the trite writing. Needless to say, I'm not a fan and I fail to see what all the appeal among readers is about.
Rebecca , Shreveport, Louisiana
The Da Vinci Code is a good read but it is also thought provoking. While a lot of the book is 100% fiction it raises some interesting and disturbing points about the creation of the Christian Church. It is also refreshing to see a book from a US author that bucks the current trend over there for extremist fundamental Christian views.
Richard Ball, Crewe UK
Look at the shelves where you pick this book up - the fiction not the reference section. Just take it for what it is an enjoyable read based loosely on historical speculation.
Garry, Fleet, UK
Everyone knows how difficult it is to keep a secret, no matter how mundane, so why are people so willing to believe that the Vatican has managed to suppress this slightly-more-important information for two thousand years? People who believe in this stupid conspiracy theory are just as guilty of blind faith as the followers of the religion attacked by this book. I can't even believe that I am bothering to send this email about what can only be generously classed as 'airport fiction'. If only serious fiction generated this much attention and debate.
Justin , Chelmsford, Essex
Get a grip! I am a Catholic but I still think the Church could find much better things to bother about - world poverty, human rights abuses, etc - than a book which doesn't actually claim to be fact.
David Russell, Glasgow, Scotland
I read The Da Vinci Code last year and thought it was terrific and very entertaining, so much so that I went out and bought other novels by Dan Brown. I stress the word 'novel' as what I read and enjoyed was a work of fiction and it never occurred to me question whether any of the information could be true...until the Vatican decided to cause such a fuss. Now I'm wondering what they have to hide!
Karen, London, UK
The danger of this is that some people are so easily swayed by suggestive fiction. Dan Brown is a novelist, a story teller. Look at the source. What are his personal beliefs? What is his personal experience with God? Has he taken a rumour and made a sensational story out of it? This book should be seen for what it is, fiction. Any supposed fact in it should be viewed with at least, the same amount of scepticism with which some people view the Bible, probably more.
Chris, Portland, Maine, USA
Clearly not all of what is given as fact in The Da Vinci code is true. However, this is not the point. What matters is that Dan Brown's book has made the everyday person question the 'authority' which has dictated to us for centuries what the Christian religious history was. No longer do we accept what is given to us and this has made all of us seek the truth. This, in my eyes, is a good thing.
The Roman Catholic Church has every right to be upset. This is an entertaining, easy reading novel, yes. But Brown's assertions at the beginning of the book about the factual content looks to me as if he is deliberately trying to pass dubious theories and speculation as fact. Without these claims, I imagine many less people would take this book so seriously.
The Da Vinci Code is a great book which has obviously hit a raw nerve with our friends at the Vatican. Angels and Demons is a far more gripping read, also based around facts centred around the Vatican but it is more obvious to the reader that certain aspects are fictitious.
Gaz, Malmesbury, UK
The 'facts' in the book may be far from certain. But at least this book has presented an alternative view of the story of Jesus. Hopefully it will inspire people to make their own minds up, instead of being spoon-fed by the church. The Vatican doesn't have a monopoly on the story of Christ.
Oli, London, UK
Has anyone looked inside the cover of The Da Vinci Code? Under the copyright info the publishers clearly state: "This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to people or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental". End of debate.
This book is by far one of the most entertaining books of last year. All of this fuss about whether or not its contents may or may not be factual is nonsense. I do not care whether or not it's true. I am just looking for something that will keep my attention, and this book surely did.
Lisa Passuello, Toledo, OH, USA
I'd like to think the Da Vinci code is the truth, but the Church will never admit to it. After all their treatment of women over the years is shameful, and continues to be so. To admit to a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene would mean admitting to the suppression of all women.
It's a novel - it's fiction - and people should regard it as such.
Chris Ruprecht, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA
I am a Christian, and happy to be so. I'm also incredibly curious by nature and as such have started reading The Da Vinci Code. It's brilliant and engaging and - though I know it has facts, and conspiracy theories mixed with fiction, it's still gripping. Whether people want to believe it or not is up to them. The fact the Vatican are upset about the book fuels my curiosity even more...
Is there a hidden truth in there somewhere? I don't know. All I do know is that it has sparked a need to know within me that in no way undermines my faith. I just want to know the story, so that I can look into the truths and the fiction for myself. And the more people kick up a fuss, the more I want to delve into its depths...
I think the book is just another racy novel. It is blasphemous, not to mention the fact that it simply accuses a spiritual leader of being just another mere mortal. The irony is that the leader is no longer alive to respond to Brown's insinuations. If Christ had to be alive now, I'm sure Brown will be bankrupt with all the defamation suits filed against him. These are the views of a non-Christian.
Chitralekha Narayan, Bangalore, India
If this one gets you hair up, don't read Angels and Demons, or any of the others for that matter. Personally, I have not read such a great set of books in a while with good stories that have been well researched. Why do I say well researched? I happen to be a Knight Templer and a 30th degree Mason amongst other things, and from that side of the stories, they have been very well researched indeed.
So why should the research into the background of the Catholic Church be any different? Maybe you should read more on the Catholic Church and the Crusades and how they started... after all, the Bible/Koran/Torah etc were not exactly delivered by God via DHL to man were they? No they were written by man...
KT PM, Cape Town, South Africa
It will be recommendable that one should have a strong foundation or knowledge of Catholicism before he or she tries to read the book. This fiction book is interesting but it can be unintentionally misleading. For a Catholic with a weak doctrinal foundation, reading this book may lead to doubts or even a way for he or she to transfer to another religion. For the people who have read this novel, better consult a priest to answer your questions. It will be hard if the doubts stay in your mind. You might lose your faith in the Catholic Church or even worse, be blinded that God does not exist.
Ersa Arriola, Philippines
Being a Hindu and unfamiliar with the Christian religion, I can only comment on the thriller aspect of the book. I'm sorry to say that I was sorely disappointed with it. The author gives it a great build-up and at the end the story just falls flat on its face. A very sloppily written second rate work of fiction. Give me a Jeffrey Archer any day.
Everyone knows that the Harry Potter books are fiction but it still didn't stop children trying to find Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. And the only difference between Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code in relation to them being works of fiction is that The Da Vinci Code is based around truth and the suggestion of truth. And the fact the Vatican likes neither just fuels my desire to read them.
The Vatican has no business aggressively legislating culture. Naturally, the Church has every right to provide guidance to its followers, but the more they speak out against specific works like the Da Vinci Code, the more it fails to distinguish itself from other dogmatic - and repressive - faiths (i.e. the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie by Iranian mullahs). Likewise, by supporting historically inaccurate works like Mel Gibson's Passion, it lessens its own credibility.
Joshua, Moscow, Russia
How strange that many seem to have confused the point that The Da Vinci Code is a cleverly plotted and fascinating work of fiction, not a book setting out to offer any serious conspiracy theory directed against the Vatican. Should the US government sue the makers of the X-Files for their storylines concerning UFO cover-ups?
Should the British government sue the makers of House of Cards over its portrayal of a corrupt UK prime minister. Goodness gracious, next thing we know we will see the Metropolitan Police Force suing the Enid Blyton estate over an inappropriate and damaging portrayal of their officers through dear old PC Plod. I enjoyed reading the Da Vinci Code as a work of fiction, and suggest that others try that for themselves to.
Edna Wellthrop, Hobart, Tasmania
As a work of fiction, The Da Vinci Code is brilliant. As a thought-provoking analysis of religion and the church it is even better. Let's not forget that the entire doctrine of the Christian church is based on a book, The Bible. Personally, I believe a lot of what Dan Brown has to say. At least it is better argued and explained than the "just believe it" story which comes out of the Bible. Perhaps that is why the Church is so openly attacking the book? Has it touched too many raw nerves? If you're going to believe a work of fiction, at least make it an interesting one!
Ashul Hilwards, Lampeter, UK