The movie concerns a secret society’s plot to seize control of the papacy during a papal election. It is directed by Ron Howard and stars actor Tom Hanks, who reappears in his Da Vinci Code role as Harvard professor Robert Langdon. The film sets key scenes in the Vatican and in two churches in Rome, Santa Maria del Popolo and Santa Maria della Vittoria. In both churches cardinals are murdered and mutilated with mysterious symbols.
According to The Times, Father Antonio Truda, parish priest at Santa Maria del Popolo, said that there was "no question" of allowing scenes to be filmed there. "It's bad enough having to put up with tour guides explaining the scene to tourists," he said.
Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, head of the Vatican's Prefecture for Economic Affairs, said that Dan Brown had "turned the Gospels upside down to poison the faith. It would be unacceptable to transform churches into film sets so that his blasphemous novels can be made into mendacious films in the name of business."
Father Marco Fibbi, spokesman for the diocese of Rome, said: "Normally we read the script, but this time it was not necessary. The name Dan Brown was enough."
"When a film is about the saints or about stories regarding the Church's artistic values, then we give permission without any doubts," Father Fibbi told the TV listings magazine Sorrisi e Canzoni (Smiles and Songs). "But when it is a question of content which does not relate to traditional religious criteria, then our doors are closed."
Vatican officials said they have been unable to prevent the filmmakers from shooting exterior shots of St. Peter’s Basilica and the surrounding medieval streets of the Borgo. The Times reports that the filmmakers are using the marble halls and staircases of the former Royal Palace at Caserta near Naples to double for Vatican interiors.
Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” which suggested that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children, also prompted criticism when it was made into a movie.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was Archbishop of Genoa at the time of “The Da Vinci Code” movie’s release, called it a "phantasmagorical cocktail of inventions" and "a pot-pourri of lies." The Catholic organization Opus Dei also protested the movie for using as its villain a murderous Opus Dei monk. Opus Dei has no monks.
Like “The Da Vinci Code,” “Angels & Demons” has been criticized for making basic mistakes concerning the locations of historic buildings, artistic conventions, and the meaning of historical symbols. One of the ridiculed claims in “Angels & Demons” states that the oculus opening in the domed roof of the Pantheon is known as the “demon’s hole.” The book also misstates the famous inscription on the Pantheon’s facade.