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Recording Pope Benedict XVI for Thought for the Day

Friday 24 December 2010, 13:45

Christine Morgan Christine Morgan

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General view of Saint Peter's square at the Vatican as Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a mass on Easter Sunday.

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).

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    "As I listened to it coming out of my bedside radio this morning it felt, quite simply, amazing!"

    Congratulations Ms Morgan on having had such a good one, but what about all the listeners to the Today programme who simply do not want religion shoved down their throats first thing in the morning? Ms Morgan's unalloyed enthusiasm is a source of concern; she appears to be someone on a mission. It is also concerning that Mark Thompson (the "game-changer") personally intervened in the negotiations to secure the broadcast.

    Lord Reith thought the Corporation should actively promote Christianity; Mark Thompson should not be carrying his torch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Thank you for this morning's Thought for the day from Pope Benedict. As a British citizen I certainly wanted to tune in to hear his message broadcast from the BBC. For those who did not want to listen there was the option of turning the radio off, though I hardly think that 2 minutes dedicated to a message relevant to the Christmas Season is really shoving religion down our throats as newlach wrote - some of us are rather thirsty for this kind of broadcast!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I'm a fan of Thought for the Day. But what, exactly, was the Pope's thought ? This was, it seems to me, a rather tired religious broadcast.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    While I have no animosity towards religious people I do often wonder if I would be promoted on radio if I dreamt up a completely improbable set of beliefs and insisted that my ideas were taken seriously ..or else!
    I want to live in a modern western secular social democracy like the one I was born into in 1946 here in Worcester.
    But it seems that a whole range of alien cultures and philosophies are being shoved down my throat recently in the name of multi this or that...and if I dare to complain it`s me who is defined as intolerant when many of their ideas are based unashamedly on an intolerance of my beliefs.
    Can we now assume that the Anglican sect have been deposed by the Roman Catholics or what?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I think the Pope is a very suitable person to offer a thought for the day during a festival which is essentially Christian. It's a THOUGHT, you can take it or you can leave it! But surely the head of a Christian denomination has something to offer listeners at Christmas. I think the Pope's views are always positive and hopeful and that's something I value.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Not a fan of organised religion in general - but to see this abject hero worship of someone who can only be described as an icon of the blinkered sheep, hits me like it does when serious people try to touch the hem of Simon Cowell's coat.

    The content was less meaningful than the average 14 year old's essay and comes from possibly the most devalued of the celebrity religious glory cloth wearers.

    Great effort to get him on...?
    I'd far rather hear the Dalai Lama.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Why is it that the message that there is a God who loves us is so irksome to some? Or is it that in our (to quote from another post) "modern western secular social democracy" we have forgotten what true love is and find it irritating that someone should voice this opinion? Also I don't think I would class the writings of Augustine of Hippo, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas as superstition and irrational. Yes, you may call them 'medieval' in a derogatory sense but long ago historians of the medieval period stopped calling it the dark ages. Before I go I just want to say Happy Christmas to everyone who reads this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    "At 7:52pm on 24 Dec 2010, MelanieClark wrote:

    Why is it that the message that there is a God who loves us is so irksome to some?"

    It's not quite that. We, who are not members of a club, feel we should not be expected to abide by the rules of said club. Not the finer aspects of common decency, which your Pope and his ilk have hijacked for their his own ends, but the other stuff, Sexuality, shop opening hours,and so forth. We are not members of your club. Abide by your own rules if you like but leave the rest of us out of it!

    ps being preached at by an ex-Hitler youth, that too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I like the point from Melanie Clark about the God who loves us. That for me is the essence of my Christian Faith. As a member of this club I would find it interesting to discuss the extent to which there are 'rules' which apply to us all.

    p.s. I recommend his memoirs published by Ignatius press 'Joseph Ratzinger: Memoirs 1927-1977'

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I'm closing comments on the Radio 4 blog for the next few days while there's only a skeleton moderation team on duty. Thanks for all your comments in the meantime and seasonal best wishes to all!

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog


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