Vatican breaks silence on "Angels and Demons"

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The success of books and films like “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons” should make the Catholic Church rethink the way it uses the media to present itself, the Vatican newspaper said on Wednesday.

A guide with the "Official Angels & Demons Tour" holds a copy of the book by Dan Brown while accompanying a group of American tourists retracing its plot at Saint Peter's square in the Vatican, May 1, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

The newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, ran two editorials on last Monday’s premiere of “Angels and Demons” in Rome, ending an official institutional silence on the film. The editorials neither panned nor praised the film but rather offered up a mix of positive and negative comments.

One of the editorials called the film “ephemeral” but also conceded that it was “gripping” and called the camera work “splendid.” It called the film “pretentious” but added that Ron Howard’s direction was “dynamic and alluring.”

One of the editorials, headlined “The Secret of His Success,” said the Church should ask itself why such a “simplistic and partial” vision of the Church as portrayed in Dan Brown’s works is so successful, even among Catholics.

“It would probably be an exaggeration to consider the books of Dan Brown an alarm bell but maybe they should be a stimulus to re-think and refresh the way the Church uses the media to explain its positions on today’s burning issues,” it said.

The film “Angels & Demons” sees symbologist Robert Langdon return to the big screen to try to help the Vatican rescue kidnapped cardinals who are being killed on the hour.

He also must stop a ticking time bomb by tracking down clues linked to a centuries-old secret society called the Illuminati.

Unlike its reception of The Da Vinci Code, the Vatican was officially silent in the run-up to “Angels and Demons,” perhaps because its condemnation of “The Da Vinci Code” prompted an incalculable amount of free publicity that boosted box office sales.

“The Da Vinci Code” upset the Vatican and some Catholics because of its storyline, in which Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children, creating a royal bloodline that Church officials kept secret for centuries.

Howard accused the Vatican of trying to hamper his filming in Rome of “Angels & Demons,” which had to recreate scenes of the Vatican and some Rome churches in Los Angeles.