Pope Benedict starts off Bible-reading marathon

 Pope Benedict yesterday launched a marathon non-stop reading of the Bible, from Genesis to Apocalypse, broadcast live on Italian state television, during the first week of the Synod of Bishops.

The reading will last seven days and six nights. The roster of about 1,300 readers features former Italian presidents, current Cabinet ministers, soccer stars, foreign diplomats, cardinals, intellectuals, actors and opera singers as well as ordinary citizens.

The Vatican invited a multi-faith, multiethnic cross section of participants to the event in the Holy Cross in Rome's Jerusalem Basilica. They include Orthodox clergymen, an Algerian woman writer and five other Muslims, and the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, along with a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp and 14 other Jewish readers.

The Vatican said in a statement: "the Bible belongs to everyone without any discrimination or cultural or ideological barrier."

The message was underscored by the Pope's decision to take part, as the pontiff explained in comments to the faithful after Sunday Mass at St Peter's Basilica in Rome. He told pilgrims: "In this way the word of God can enter homes to accompany lives of families and individuals. A seed that if well received will not fail to bring abundant fruits."

The Pope's reading was followed by Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to the European Union in Brussels, and Domenico Maselli, an Italian Protestant leader.

The marathon will end Saturday with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of State of the Vatican, reading the 22nd chapter of the Book of Revelation.

Source: VIS/Vatican Radio

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