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    Angels & Demons: The Almighty Backlash Begins

    Ron Howard, Ayelet Zurer, Tom Hanks, Angels & Demons Columbia Pictures, Zade Rosenthal/Columbia Pictures

    Just one day after director Ron Howard attempted to preemptively silence the inevitable backlash to the Da Vinci Code prequel, two international Catholic groups have ignored his olive branch and sparked a holy war of words of their own.

    Howard yesterday implored Catholic League president Bill Donohue to actually view the would-be blockbuster before continuing his tireless efforts to denounce the film as anti-Catholic. Today, Donohue responded by calling the film's premise—an admitted work of fiction—"a lie," and by calling Howard himself "delusional."

    But Donohue seems to take more issue with the best-selling book upon which the Tom Hanks-starring movie is based.

    "Dan Brown says in his book that the Illuminati are 'factual' and that they were 'hunted ruthlessly by the Catholic Church,' " Donohue says, adding that the conceit is again repeated by Hanks in the film's trailer.

    "All of this is a lie…But this hasn't stopped Brown from asserting that 'It is a historical fact that the Illuminati vowed vengeance against the Vatican in the 1600s.' "

    As for Howard's assertion that "Catholics, including most in the hierarchy of the Church, will enjoy the movie for what it is: an exciting mystery, set in the awe-inspiring beauty of Rome," well, Donohue disagrees.

    "Howard must be delusional if he thinks Vatican officials are going to like this propaganda—they denied him the right to film on their grounds. Moreover, we know from a Canadian priest who hung out with Howard's crew last summer in Rome (dressed in civilian clothes) just how much they hate Catholicism."

    Another group is one-upping Donohue's opposition to the film. (Though the opposition is, sadly, not due to knowing someone who met someone who may or may not have once held up a light on set.)

    The Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the nation's most powerful Catholic organization, has called for a flat-out ban of the film, saying its release in the country would only contribute to the dissemination of misinformation about the religion that could spread around the country, where little is known about the belief system.

    "This film could seriously hurt religious sentiments," CBCI spokesman Father Babu Joseph said. "Christianity is not understood by the majority of people in India yet, and many non-Christians may mistake the content as the truth."

    As it stands, the Mumbai-based Sony Pictures Releasing India is expected to distribute the film in the country, though an official from CBCI has already written to the Central Board of Film Certification to reconsider allowing the film to run.

    The CBFC has yet to respond to the request, as Sony has not yet submitted the film to the censoring body.

    A similar dispute arose in India over 2006's The Da Vinci Code, though no ban was issued. Instead, Sony agreed to add a disclaimer to the end of the film, underscoring that the movie was a work of fiction.

    Angels & Demons is due out May 15.


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