Pope delivers Radio 4's Thought for the Day

The birth of Christ shows how God keeps his promises but often surprises us by how he fulfils them, Pope Benedict said in a historic BBC broadcast today.

The pontiff delivered Radio 4's Today programme Christmas Eve Thought for the Day, recalling with "great fondness" his visit to Britain earlier this year.

It is the first time the Pope has presented material which has been specifically written for a broadcast audience. He recorded his message in Rome on Wednesday.

He told listeners: "Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God's chosen people, the children of Israel, were waiting in intense expectation. They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send."

He went on: "God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them."

For the Messiah did not bring a political liberation achieved through military means.

"He did bring liberation, but not only for the people in that time and place," said the Pope.

Christ destroyed death forever "by means of his shameful death on the cross", he added.

"I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers during this holy season."

He said he prayed especially for the elderly and those nearing the end of their lives.

Pope Benedict said he hoped God would grant all a "peaceful and joyful Christmas" adding: "May God bless all of you."

The Pope visited Scotland and England during a visit to the UK three months ago, performing an open air mass and meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The visit was widely judged a success after fears it could be overshadowed by the controversy over child abuse victims of Roman

Catholic priests.

Thought For The Day, broadcast at 7.48am, traditionally allows speakers from a range of faiths to give a personal reflection and has been broadcast since 1970.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, attacked the BBC for allowing the Pope to deliver the Thought for the Day.

"The BBC is giving the Pope an unquestioned slot to continue whitewashing his Church's disgraceful record on covering up child abuse by its priests," he said.

"Why isn't the Pope being subjected to the same rigorous questioning that other heads of state would get?"


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