In a pontifical first, Pope Benedict will read the Bible for an Italian television show to be broadcast later this year.
ANSA reports the pope will kick off the six day marathon by reading the first chapter of Genesis in Italian on October 5, the head of Italian state broadcaster RAI's Vatican department, Giuseppe De Carli, announced last week.
Benedict's reading, which will take around an hour, will be broadcast on RAI Uno although organisers have not yet decided whether the papal performance will be live or pre-recorded.
The pope himself is said to have expressed a preference to read live from St Peter's Basilica.
"I think the fundamental element that convinced Benedict XVI to take part in the television programme was the fact that he will not be commenting but simply giving a pure reading of the text, a pure announcement of the Word," said Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
The pope's participation will also be "an appeal to the Catholic Church to go back to studying and deepening its knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, to find again that base element and point of departure," Ravasi added.
Once the pope has finished his chapter, the marathon Bible reading will continue from a pulpit in the basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme Church in Rome and will move across to RAI's education satellite channel, RAI Edu, according to De Carli.
A total of 1,200 people from across the social divides will take part in the project - from cardinals, rabbis, politicians and academics to policemen, sportsmen, students, soldiers and factory workers.
De Carli stressed that both Catholics and Jews will be involved in the reading, adding that the pope's Italian reading of Genesis would immediately be followed by Rome's Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, reading it in Hebrew. The beginning of St John's Gospel will be read in Greek.
De Carli added that the door was also open to Muslims wishing to participate in the project.
Pope to star V Bible reading (ANSA, 7/7/08)