The Catholic Bishops Conference of India has welcomed the government's decision to withhold the release of the Da Vinci Code in India until representatives of the government and Catholic church view the controversial film.
"The movie is a false and irrelevant portrayal of Jesus Christ. It attacks the very root of Christian faith. It maligns Christ, so the government's move not to clear the movie is a welcome step," CBCI Deputy Secretary General Father Donald De Souza told rediff.com on Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi announced that representatives of the Catholic church, his ministry and the Censor Board will view the film before taking a decision on its release. Valson Phampu of the National Minorities Commission, Assistant Archbishop of Delhi Bishop Anil D'Souza and his father Donald D'souza have been invited to the screening of the film.
According to sources, the final decision will be taken on May 18, as Dasmunshi will watch film at 4 pm today.
'Until the government and Church representatives are satisfied that the movie will not hurt the sentiments of Christians, its screening will not be allowed,' Dasmunsi said.
Catholic groups led by the CBCI have opposed the release of the film, which is set to hit Indian screens on Friday, May 19. The movie is based on Dan Brown's controversial novel of the same name, which has sold over 40 million copies worldwide.
According to Father De Souza, the novel and the film make "caricatures of religious persons of the Church who sacrifice their lives in the service of God and the people."
"We wanted the Board of Film Censors of India to ban the movie because it is based on the wrong notion of Christianity and its teachings," the priest said.
The CBCI deputy secretary general said Church leaders are ready to watch the film along with Minister Dasmunsi and Censor Board officials.
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, the Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church, has also welcomed the government move to withhold the movie's release in India.
"It is a sensible decision and we welcome it," Cardinal Vithayathil told rediff.com
The cardinal said the Da Vinci Code maligns Jesus Christ and his message. "I am constrained to state that the novel is an imaginative work that distorts history," he said.
Cardinal Vithayathil said the novel has already created much confusion and pain to people who believe in and honour Jesus Christ. "India's secularism positively respects all religions without showing undue favour to any. In such a country, it is highly deplorable that a film of this kind is allowed to be screened, disregarding the religious sentiments of millions of citizens," he said.
Last weekend, three leading members of the Catholic community watched the film along with members of the Censor Board in Mumbai and declared that there is nothing objectionable in the Da Vinci Code. They recommended that a disclaimer be prominently inserted at the beginning of the film, stating that it is a work of fiction and has no connection to reality. However, officials said the government wants to first establish a mechanism to satisfy representatives of the Catholic Church, only then would it allow the film to be released in India.