'Angels' barred from churches

The Vatican has banned “Angels & Demons” from shooting in Rome churches, a Vatican official confirmed Monday, saying “The Da Vinci Code” prequel is incompatible with religious sentiment.

Sony thriller, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, started rolling in Rome on June 5. Last year the filmmakers requested permits from Rome authorities to shoot in the monumental church of Santa Maria del Popolo and the smaller Santa Maria della Vittoria, where key scenes in the Dan Brown bestseller are set.

Under Italy’s treaty with the Vatican, both the Italian government and the Vatican must OK the permits, and the Vatican balked.

“We often provide our churches to productions whose purposes are compatible with religious sentiment,” said Father Marco Fibbi, a spokesman for the Rome diocese. “But not when the film pursues a type of fantasy that damages common religious sentiment, as in the case of ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ ” he added.

Sony declined comment on the ban. Studio incurred similar opposition from the Vatican on “Da Vinci Code.”

The church denounced that film shortly before its May 2006 release and urged a boycott. Shooting on “The Da Vinci Code” was never affected, however, and the box office hardly suffered from the Vatican’s stance, with the religious-themed thriller earning $758 million worldwide.

Although the Vatican gave a cold shoulder to “Angels & Demons,” the Roma and Lazio Film Commission bent over backward for the film, which in past weeks did shoot the exteriors of the two churches as well as of St. Peter’s and of Rome’s Pantheon.

The production moves this week from Rome to the former Royal Palace at Caserta, near Naples, which will double for the Vatican’s interiors.

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