Recording Pope Benedict XVI for Thought for the Day
Editor's note: securing a Thought for the Day from Pope Benedict XVI wasn't a simple matter. Head of Radio, Religion and Ethics Christine Morgan explains - SB
When I first began to talk three years ago about the possibility of the Pope doing Thought for the Day everyone laughed. I was told it was impossible. But I kept raising the idea with senior figures in the Catholic Church in this country and then in Rome. Three years on, after various trips and endless conversations, letters and calls we found a way of making it happen.
The call to say it was definitely going ahead came on Monday lunchtime. It was a bit like moving house; after months of tortuous preparation suddenly it was all happening very fast. I didn't even know for sure if I'd be able to get out there with the weather conditions causing so much chaos. Then we found there was one seat left on the last flight to Rome that day. I had 40 minutes to pack and get to the airport.
I arrived late Monday night. Unfortunately my luggage didn't. The airline managed to lose my bag so, next day, Pattie Parttee from the BBC Rome office marched me across the city to the shops to get on with finding something suitable to wear to meet the Pope.
This time last year I was in Rome to see some of the key people. The British Ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell's advice and assistance through the labyrinthine paths of Vatican diplomacy was invaluable. The visit to the Vatican in February by the Director General Mark Thompson was a game-changer. But the success of the Pope's four-day visit to Britain in September clearly made a big difference to the Pope himself. He developed a genuine warmth for the people of Britain and was receptive when David Willey, the BBC's Rome correspondent, asked again. He then agreed to this morning's historic broadcast. It's the first time any Pope has ever written a script for a particular broadcaster - let alone an individual programme.
Over the past 20 years I've produced so many exceptional contributors on Thought for the Day. But I never thought that on Wednesday I would be sitting with Benedict XVI in the Vatican recording the first 'Thought' ever done by a Pope. The atmosphere was amazingly warm and relaxed and in conversations with officials beforehand it was clear he had agreed to do this because he likes radio.
It's a real real endorsement of the very distinctive nature of Thought for the Day and its profile as a key part of Britain's morning agenda. As I listened to it coming out of my bedside radio this morning it felt, quite simply, amazing!
Christine Morgan is Head of Radio, Religion and Ethics, and Editor of Thought for the Day
- Listen to the Pope's Thought for the Day on the Radio 4 web site.
- Download Thought for the Day to listen to on your computer or MP3 player by subscribing to the podcast.
- The picture shows a view of Saint Peter's square at the Vatican as Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a mass on Easter Sunday (Getty Images).