Pope makes historic UK broadcast

God is faithful to his promises but often surprises us by how he fulfils them, the Pope will say in a historic BBC broadcast today.

Pope Benedict also recalls his visit to the UK earlier this year with "great fondness" in Thought for the Day, which features on Radio 4's Today programme.

It is the first time the pontiff has presented material which has been specifically written for a broadcast audience. He recorded his message in Rome on Wednesday.

In the broadcast, he says: "I keep all of you very much in my prayers during this Holy Season.

"I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ."

He adds: "I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick, and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time."

The Pope visited Scotland and England during a visit to the UK three months ago, performing an open air mass and meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thought For The Day allows speakers from a range of faiths to give a personal reflection and has been broadcast since 1970.

It goes out during the Today programme at around 7.45am.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, has attacked the BBC for allowing the Pope to deliver the Thought for the Day.

"The BBC is giving the Pope an unquestioned slot to continue whitewashing his Church's disgraceful record on covering up child abuse by its priests," he said.

"Why isn't the Pope being subjected the same rigorous questioning that other heads of state would get?"