05/20/2006, 00.00
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Strong Christian opposition to "Da Vinci Code"

On 18 May, the film was screened across Korea despite Protestants and Catholics who sought to block its release. For Filipino bishops, "it's a problem", but "it could be useful to deepen our faith".

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The Seoul District Court rejected a petition filed one month ago by the Christian Council of Korea (CCK – an organisation that represents 61 Protestant groups) and the Catholic Church, to block the release of the Da Vinci Code. The request was turned down on the grounds that it ran counter to freedom of expression.

The Churches contended that the film could spread false views about Jesus and violate their right to promote Christianity. In the Philippines, meanwhile, Cinema – an organ of the Bishops' Conference that deals with film censorship – advised those who are over 18 to watch it, acknowledging that the film "was disturbing but could help deepen knowledge of the faith".

Commenting on the decision of the Seoul Court, Park Seoung-cheol, CCK spokesman, said: "We cannot help but have deep concern that the film may disparage and insult the divinity of Jesus Christ. We respect art and the freedom of expression it entails. But this is too much. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the bastion of the Christian faith."

The CKK also sent a letter to Sony Pictures, the firm that produced the film, urging it to inform spectators that some of the descriptions were the fruit of fantasy. The Japanese cinematographic company did not accept the request.

South Korea, which underwent rapid economic development in the seventies and eighties, also saw the rapid growth of Christianity. At the end of the Korean War in 1953, Christians amounted only to some tens of thousands, but now they account for a quarter of the population (13 million Protestants and 4.6 million Roman Catholics). But Churches are now facing a serious problem: low attendance among the young. Most of those who bought tickets for the movie, largely sold in advance, were youth, which explains the concerns voiced by Church leaders.

Yet, paradoxically, the controversy can be an opportunity for more profound evangelization, according to Samuel Songhoon Lee, who writes for The Korea Times. (PC)

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