Pope Benedict XVI reminded believers of God’s faithfulness during his first-ever "Thought for the Day" radio broadcast on Christmas Eve.
The pope chose BBC Radio 4’s early three-minute slot to deliver what was also his first ever personally scripted radio or television broadcast.
In his message, the pope began by recalling his visit to Britain in September with “great fondness.”
“I keep all of you very much in my prayers during this Holy Season,” he said.
The pope reminded listeners of the meaning of Christ’s birth. The child born in Bethlehem brought liberation not only to the people in his time and place, but to all people throughout history. The liberation was not brought through military means but through Jesus' “shameful” death on the cross, the pope said
He told listeners: “God is always faithful to us in his promises but he often surprises us in the way he fulfills them.”
He encouraged listeners to give thanks to God for his goodness and “joyfully” proclaim the good news of the freedom God offers to those around them.
He offered prayers for families, children, the sick, those in hardship, the elderly and the dying, in particular.
The Pope’s "Thought for the Day" was recorded in Rome yesterday following months of negotiation between the BBC and the Vatican.
It was criticized by the president of the National Secular Society, Terry Sanderson, who said: “After the overkill from the BBC during the Pope’s visit, this indicates the corporation’s obsession with religion, whereas the nation is largely indifferent to it.”
Controller of BBC Radio 4 Gwyneth Williams said she was “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,” she said.
For the last four decades, Radio 4 has invited religious leaders to offer their personal reflections in "Thought for the Day." Other notable leaders featured on the program in the past include the Archbishop of Canterbury and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.