Philippines bishops split on proposal to ban Da Vinci Code

Manila, Philippines - Roman Catholic leaders in the Philippines were split in their reaction to the movie version of "The Da Vinci Code," with one archbishop of the country's dominant religion calling for a film ban.

The movie, starring Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, is set to be screened on May 18 in the Philippines, a bastion of Catholicism in Asia, amid a global controversy over its story line.

It is adapted from Dan Brown's best-selling book that says Jesus Christ married the biblical character Mary Magdalene and started a sacred blood line that still exists in secret.

The book has triggered intense debate among religious scholars and has been branded a blasphemy by some Catholics around the world.

In the Philippines one archbishop, Ramon Arguelles, said he would lead a crusade to ban the film because it is "sacrilegious against God."

Brown's book, released here last year, did not elicit similar controversy.

"In a predominantly Christian country like the Philippines, making publicly available such film is sinfully condoning blasphemy and undermining the very limits of the people's values and religious foundation," Arguelles said in a letter to Manila's movie and television screening body.

But Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said banning the movie would likely only stir more interest.

"We neither oppose or endorse its showing. We don't want to ride to the commercialization and marketing hype because we know that this is all marketing strategy and the bottom line here is money -- it's not religion," Quitorio said.

The Catholic flock should just treat the movie as "really entertainment, nothing more, nothing less," he said, adding that he had read the book and found it "entertaining."

In 1988 the Philippine government banned "The Last Temptation of Christ" but it has since found its way to Catholic homes through digital video discs.