Success of 'The Da Vinci Code'- indication of hatred in the world, president of Italian bishops' conference says

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, a close papal adviser and president of the Italian bishops' conference, issued a direct denunciation of "The Da Vinci Code" a few days before the film based on the best-selling Dan Brown novel is released around the world.

Ruini told the bishops' conference general assembly that "The Da Vinci Code" had as its primary goal commercial success. But he said it also constituted a "radical and completely unfounded challenge to the heart itself of our faith, beginning with the cross of the Lord."

"It is difficult to escape the sensation that the great success of works like 'The Da Vinci Code' have more to do with that hatred, or that failure of love for oneself ... that is insinuated in our civilization," he said.

Nevertheless, he said, the film's release offered the church the opportunity to teach the truth about Jesus and the origins of Catholicism, and distinguish the truth from the "fantasy and falsifications" presented in the book, the AP reports.

"Even in this case, there's no reason to cede to pessimism: In the end, the fascination with truth is stronger than that of illusion, and our people today have a thirst for truth," he said.

The novel, with 46 million copies in print, contends that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had descendants, and that Opus Dei, a conservative religious organization close to the Vatican, and the Catholic Church were at the center of covering it up.

Several Vatican officials and cardinals have spoken out against the novel in recent weeks in the run-up to the film's release, including at least one Vatican official who has called for a boycott.