The Rt Rev Crispian Hollis, Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, has expressed concerns over reports that the BBC is set to broadcast a documentary which claims to examine the life of the Virgin Mary. The documentary reportedly presents a series of historical theories on Mary's life including that Jesus Christ was the offspring of a Roman soldier who raped her, or possibly the result of an illicit affair. Reports of the documentary emerged in the Catholic Press late last week and have sparked serious alarm within the Catholic and wider communities. Bishop Hollis, the chairman of the Church's Strategic Media Committee and an ex-producer at the BBC himself, has indicated that he plans to write the Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, to express his concerns on behalf of the Catholic community of England and Wales. Speaking today, Bishop Hollis - who only last week welcomed legitimate press scrutiny on newsworthy items - said: "I believe very strongly that programmes of this nature should maintain sensitivity to those whose cherished beliefs are concerned. "The Virgin Mary is clearly a person whose life and times are immensely important to the whole of Christian history. As Mother of God, she is honoured and venerated by millions of Catholics and other Christians within these islands and all over the world. "To include, within a historical examination of her life, confused and unfounded guesswork, which carries with it crude and offensive speculation, is not only unscholarly but runs the risk of undermining the very integrity of the project itself. "The Catholic Church - and indeed the whole Christian tradition - is not afraid of critical examination but, at the same time, we guard the truths of our faith very jealously and we treasure the history and the lives of those who have played a critical part in its foundation. "I believe that, in an age when we are all doing our best to build up a world of racial and religious tolerance, programmes which, however unwittingly, attack the icons of major religious faiths, are unwelcome and troubling."
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