THE VATICAN (UPI)--Reacting angrily to the $224 million gross worldwide opening of the "The Da Vinci Code" movie, Pope Benedict XVI dismissed its plot of a Catholic cover-up by publicly displaying the bones of Jesus Christ, which he said had been stored in Vatican vaults "for safekeeping" for 2000 years.
"Sure, we've kept these bones under wraps for awhile," said the pontiff at a press conference. "But that was only to keep them away from prying eyes. JC is still divine, you know."
The controversial movie's box office earnings were the second-biggest debut ever, second only to the previous record of last year's "Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" with $145 million, Columbia Pictures said.
The controversial movie version of Dan Brown's best-selling novel alleges a Vatican cover-up about Jesus Christ and his offspring. Theatres sold $77 million worth of tickets in the United States and Canada during its first three days.
Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks star in this most eagerly awaited movie of the year based on Brown's novel. The largest North American opening this year had been $68 million for "Ice Age: The Meltdown" seven weeks ago. But "The Da Vinci Code" numbers were still far from the $115 million record held by 2002's "Spider-Man."
Still, "The Da Vinci Code" earned about $147 million overseas, the biggest international opening ever. The total haul of $224 million ranks No. 2 behind the $253 million tally for the "Star Wars" movie, the studio indicated.
In the film's 90 foreign markets, it ranked as the No. 1 opening of all time in the heavily Catholic countries of Italy ($11.4 million) and Spain ($11 million), and No. 1 or No. 2 of all time throughout South America. It made the all-time top-10 in Britain ($15.7 million) and Japan ($11.3 million).
The Pope also dismissed Brown's fictional premise that Jesus Christ had a child with Mary Magdalene and that their blood line survived through the ages, despite the fact that 40 million copies of the book have been sold around the world.
The Pope also showed anger towards the group American Atheists which says the same level of scrutiny applied to the book and film also should be used to question all other religious claims.
After a disastrous $22 million opening last weekend, Warner Bros. Pictures' sinking-ship thriller "Poseidon" fell two places to No. 4 with $9 million, taking its total to $36.8 million.