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Wednesday 03 Sep 2014

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BBC Local Radio bringing Papal Visit to communities across the country

BBC Local Radio stations will be making sure listeners across England can experience first hand the excitement and impact of Pope Benedict XVI's visit this September.

To mark the beatification of Cardinal Newman in Birmingham, English Regions' religion team will be producing a live 45-minute special broadcast from Crofton Park on Sunday 19 September from 8am, which will be available for BBC local radio stations across England. Stations will also be following 200 pilgrims from across England to capture their expectations, hopes and experiences of going to see the Holy Father.

Individual stations will be reflecting the event's spirit in their own communities as teams deliver output not only through each station's dedicated faith programmes but also across daily shows: from capturing the visit in news bulletins, to hosting on-air discussions, to following listeners as they prepare to make their pilgrimage.

BBC WM will be capturing the spirit of the visit and exploring how it sits with one of the most multicultural, multi-faith cities in Europe. Alongside a week of discussion and features the station promises a Question Time-style public debate (for broadcast Friday 18 September), all leading up to a unprecedented day of outside broadcasts from across the city marking the Mass (Sunday 19 September), telling the story of Cardinal Newman and reflecting the Pope's presence in the region. The station will be on air overnight with special programming as people arrive for the historic event.

Keen to engage all their audiences in the visit, BBC Merseyside's ambitious week of programming will mix serious discussion and debate with comedic views as the station sets about exploring what Catholicism means on Merseyside, past, present and future. Programming will run across all daily programmes from Breakfast through to Drive (September 12-19), ranging from discussions with newly ordained priests and church representatives, to listeners' tales of life as a Catholic in 2010.

BBC London 94.9 will also be offering extensive live coverage of all the London Papal events. The station's Inspirit programme presented by Jumoke Fashola will be joining pilgrims in Hyde Park on Saturday 18 September where the Pope will host a public prayer vigil. In addition, Vanessa Feltz will present a special programme from outside Westminster Cathedral where she'll capture the sense of occasion and excitement of the crowd as they arrive for the special Papal Mass.

And on Sundays running up to the visit, BBC local radio faith programmes will be carrying two unique series exploring different elements of Catholic life: England's Saint and Catholics 2010.

England's Saint, Janet Wilson's five-part faith travelogue, takes listeners to the towns and communities which played a part in shaping the man who will become England's first non-martyred Catholic saint for hundreds of years – Cardinal Newman. She tells his story through the eyes and words of people who now claim him as England's Saint and those who argue over his life and legacy. The series includes a unique visit to his private rooms at the Birmingham Oratory and to his graveside. The journey also highlights just how many of the issues facing Cardinal Newman and the Catholic Church at the time of his death are still the cause of debate and controversy today.

In Catholics 2010 a former British nun goes on a personal journey to discover how the lives of English Catholics reflect their beliefs. Deborah Hollamby was a young sister in Rome during the papacy of John Paul II. She attended private masses organised for him in the Vatican and got to know him personally. Today she is back in England and married to a divorced man. While still a passionate Catholic her lifestyle choice has left her often feeling at odds with traditional teachings. On her journey round England she meets other Catholics to discover what it means to be a Catholic today and how believers are interpreting their faith. She also hears from a senior Catholic Bishop who responds to her findings.

Both series will also be available on the BBC Faith In England Podcast presented by Gavin Ashenden.

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