However, The Guardian reports that an Opus Dei spokesman denied a report in the Italian daily La Repubblica, which quoted a source close to the producers as saying Opus Dei had put up "several tens of millions of dollars" in a bid to re-burnish its image following last year's release of the Da Vinci Code movie.
"Opus Dei is not funding the film, but it would be a consultant to the project," he said.
A spokeswoman for the producers, Lux Vide, said: "For the big parts, we would like De Niro and Banderas. But I say 'would like' because there are no contracts yet."
Rome-based Lux Vide has made several big-budget religious films, including a made-for-TV biopic on the late John Paul II starring Jon Voight and Christopher Lee.
Giuseppe Corigliano, head of Opus Dei's information office in Italy, told a press conference: "They had been asking us for at least six or seven years to act as consultants for a film on Saint [Josemaria].
"At the beginning, we had doubts because we didn't think it was possible to convey [his] extraordinary personality, his sense of humour and deep faith. We agreed after the Da Vinci Code affair."
Opus Dei members were appalled by its portrayal in the Dan Brown book as a murderous global conspiracy.
But shortly before the release of the film, its leader, Msgr Javier Echevarria, claimed Brown had done it more good than harm. He told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera last May that interest in Opus Dei had soared since the publication of the novel.
De Niro may have role in Opus Dei's film fightback (Guardian, 17/2/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
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Newsman makes news as Navarro-Valls resigns (CathNews, 12/7/06)
Pope blesses statue of Opus Dei founder (CathNews, 15/9/05)
19 Feb 2007