Roman Catholic scholars gathered in Rome on Thursday to explore whether the soon-to-be-released film version of "The Da Vinci Code" will spread hostile sentiment against the church or provide an opportunity to draw people closer to religion.
Scholars including members of Opus Dei -- the conservative religious order depicted as a murderous, power-hungry sect in the bestselling Dan Brown novel -- were participating at the forum on the potential effects of the movie, set for release May 17 to 19 around the world.
"The movie will reach more people, so in that sense it will be a bit of a step forward for the book's ideas," said Father John Wauck, a professor at Opus Dei's University of Santa Croce in Rome.
Brown's novel has Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene and having a child, and it puts the church and Opus Dei at the center of a conspiracy to cover up the supposed secret.
The author has said that although his story is fictional, it's rooted in historical fact -- a position that's drawn a torrent of criticism from religious and historical scholars.
The novel's success -- more than 40 million copies have been sold in hardback alone -- is a sign that there is "tremendous religious ignorance" but that readers also have a thirst for history, art, symbolism and a more spiritual life, Wauck said, indicating that the movie might draw some people closer to Catholicism.