While the publication of the latest edition of children's author J K Rowling's acclaimed Harry Potter series has been the expected commercial and media sensation, rumours abound that Pope Benedict XVI is less than thrilled by the young wizard's antics - even though he is massively outselling Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code story, a definite subject of Vatican ire.
Press reports are claiming that the Pope believes the Potter stories 'deeply distort Christianity in the soul'. Other clerics, such as Anglican priest, the Rev Richard Billingshurst, who triggered the scrapping of a school event based on ëHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince', also say the novels make fun of evil and are harmful.
For a number of years preachers in America's Bible belt have been denouncing young Harry, but other Christians take a very different view. Back in 2002 the Mission Theology Advisory Group of the Church of England and the ecumenical Churches' Commission on Mission produced some reflections on Christian engagement with contemporary culture which said that churches should read Harry Potter as a morality tale.
Author J K Rowling, though she consistently declines to talk about her personal life in public, is reportedly a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church. In the past she has said that those who condemn her work as somehow encouraging children to dabble in the occult have entirely got the wrong end of Harry's stick.
According the US magazine Christianity Today, the latest furore implicating the Pope in anti-Potterism in fact draws on something written by Benedict XVI two years ago, when he was Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. In an exchange of letters he thanks German author Gabriele Kuby for 'enlighten[ing] us on the Harry Potter matter.'
It is not clear that the Cardinal, now Pope, has ever read the stories. But on matters raised by his correspondent, he writes: 'these are subtle, barely perceptible seductions, and precisely because of that they have a profound effect and can corrupt the Christian faith in souls even before it [faith] is able to properly grow.''
The tenuousness of all this has not stopped some journalists leaping to the conclusion that the Pontiff, formerly head of the Catholic Church's Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has condemned Potter. But it seems that this particular spell may have rather more to do with spin than magic.