"(It) aims to discredit the Church and its history through gross and absurd manipulations," Bertone, the archbishop of the northern Italian city of Genoa and a close friend of Pope John Paul II told the paper in its Monday edition.
"This seems like a throwback to the old anti-clerical pamphlets of the 1800s," he said.
The central claim of the book, written by U.S. author Dan Brown, is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children. The Bible says nothing about Jesus' marital status.
Bertone's comments were significant because until the pope named him archbishop of Genoa in 2003 he was for years the number two man at the Vatican's most powerful department -- the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"You can find that book everywhere and the risk is that many people who read it believe that those fairy tales are real," he said. "I think I have the responsibility to clear things up to unmask the cheap lies contained in books like that."
Earth to Bertone! Earth to Bertone! The book is fiction. As such it is in its very design made up. You may as well warn your flock about Moby Dick and Joyce's Ulysses, or even The Canterbury Tales. They're fiction, too.
But what's your real anxiety? It's that your teachings do not grip people so tightly that they cannot tell fact from fiction. Look to your teachings, man, not to novellists you seem to wish to blame for folks turning away from the faith.
As for me, I'm quite attracted to the eternal feminine, thank you very much.