Pope breaks tradition with BBC broadcast

LONDON, (Reuters) – Pope Benedict called for people  to remember the significance of Christ’s birth in a Christmas  message specially recorded for Britons and aired on the BBC today.
It was the first time the pope has addressed a Christmas  message specifically to one of the countries visited during the  year, the BBC said.

Pope Benedict
Pope Benedict

The pope recalled his four-day state visit to England and  Scotland in September, and told the people of Britain and every  part of the English-speaking world that they were in his prayers  in the Holy season.
The recording was broadcast in the “Thought for the Day”  slot on the Radio 4 current affairs programme “Today.”
The slot lasts about three minutes and has a regular place  on the morning programme broadcast Monday to Saturday. It offers  a personal perspective, from leaders of a variety of religious  denominations, on topical issues.
“God is always faithful to his promises, but he often  surprises us in the way he fulfils them,” the Pope said in the  message pre-recorded at the Vatican.
“Let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news  that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down. He  gives us hope, he brings us life.”
The pope’s visit to Britain, the first ever official papal  visit to the country, was deemed a success despite a backdrop of  a global sex-abuse scandal within the Catholic Church and  hostility from one of Europe’s most secular nations. The pope did not refer to sex abuse in his broadcast.
The Catholic Church’s relations with the Church of England  have also been tense since the pope offered Anglicans opposed to  their church’s ordination of women and other liberal tendencies  the chance to convert to Rome while keeping some of their  traditions.
The National Secular Society described the pope’s broadcast  as a slap in the face because it gave him access to the  “unquestioned, unchallengeable Thought for the Day slot”.
“(It) may be a coup for the BBC, but it is a slap in the  face for the thousands of clerical abuse victims who are still  waiting for justice,” it said on its website.

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