Opus Dei tries to improve its image before movie is released

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NY: The entrance to the national headquarters of the Roman Catholic group Opus Dei is the last place you would expect to find mention of "The Da Vinci Code."

The conservative organization has spent the past few years trying to escape the best-seller's shadow, after the novel portrayed Opus Dei as a murderous sect fixated on power and self-mutilation.

But now the low-profile spiritual community is starting a drive to improve its image ahead of a major film based on the book - and that campaign begins at the group's front door, where a sign invites fans of the Dan Brown novel to learn about "the real Opus Dei."

"The unfortunate thing is there are going to be tens of millions of people who will read the novel and see the movie and have that be their only exposure to Opus Dei," said Brian Finnerty, a spokesman for the group. "Because the book is marketed as being in some ways factual, it's difficult for people to tell where the lines between fact and fiction are."

The movie, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard, is set for May 19 release and is already expected to be a blockbuster. Opus Dei is trying to counter with its own productions.

Founded in Spain and now with 86,000 lay and clergy members worldwide, the group has commissioned a short documentary that extols the benefits of its emphasis on personal holiness in daily life. The organization has about 3,000 members in the United States.

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