By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Pope Benedict XVI will read the first chapter of the Book of Genesis on Italian national television October 5, the RAI television network announced today, in a broadcast expected to last roughly one hour.
The pope’s appearance will kick off a six-day RAI telethon in which the entire Bible will be read by various personalities. The series is projected to conclude Oct. 11 with the 21st chapter of the Book of Revelation, to be read by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
Oct. 5 is the opening day of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the theme of “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”
According to Giuseppe de Carli, who heads the division of RAI devoted to Vatican coverage, Benedict XVI will appear in the late afternoon of Oct. 5, following the opening ceremonies of the synod. It is yet to be determined whether the broadcast will be live or taped, De Carli said.
Corriere della Sera, Italy’s main daily newspaper, reported this morning that Benedict XVI has proposed that the broadcast be carried live, from his residence in the Apostolic Palace.
The six-day RAI broadcast, titled “The Bible, Day and Night,” will feature a series of other readers, with most located in Rome’s Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. The readings will be conducted in Italian.
Readings of literary classics have proved to be surprise ratings winners for Italian television. A recitation of Dante's "Divine Comedy" by noted comedian and actor Roberto Benigni, familiar to international audiences from the film "Life is Beautiful," was a smash hit in 2007, garnering a 45 percent share of the national audience at its peak.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, USCCB vice president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington will represent the United States during the upcoming synod.