Pope to deliver Thought for the Day on Christmas Eve
UPDATE: Listen here and read the transcript
It will be the first time that Pope Benedict XVI has presented material specifically written for a radio or television audience, and the first time that a serving Pontiff has delivered Thought for the Day.
The broadcast was recorded today in Rome. While the BBC has not released details of what the Pope will say, it is understood that his broadcast will chime with the traditional message of Christmas.
It will go out at 7.45am on Christmas Eve, and will last for three minutes. Gwyneth Williams, the controller of Radio 4, said: “I’m delighted Pope Benedict is sharing his Christmas message with the Radio 4 audience. It’s significant that the Pope has chosen Thought for the Day to give his first personally scripted broadcast - and what better time to do so than on the eve of one of the biggest celebrations on the Christian calendar.”
The BBC had initially hoped that His Holiness would broadcast in the slot during his UK visit.
Mark Thompson, the corporation’s director-general who is himself a devout Catholic, made a personal approach to the Vatican in February to try and secure an appearance for the Pope on Radio 4.
At that time Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, opposed the BBC’s invitation to the Pope. “The Pope’s views on gay people echo the extreme policies of the British National Party,” he said. “He opposes legal equality and supports homophobic discrimination in law. The BBC would not ask Nick Griffin to do Thought for the Day, so why are they asking the Pope?”
Today Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society, accused the BBC of a “whitewash”.