BBC under fire for inviting Pope to present Christmas edition of ‘Thought for the Day’

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The Pope has recorded a special Christmas message for Britain following his visit to the country earlier this year.

He will appear on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day on Christmas Eve.

The content of the message is being kept secret until the programme is broadcast.

The Pontiff reportedly agreed to pre-record the message after he was approached by BBC director-general Mark Thompson, who is a devout Catholic.

This will be the first time he has recorded a scripted radio or television address.

However, the National Secular Society responded angrily and said the Pope should be challenged.

NSS president Terry Sanderson said: “The BBC is giving the Pope a slot to speak, unchallenged, to continue whitewashing his church’s disgraceful record on covering up child abuse by its priests.

“Why isn’t the Pope being subjected the same rigorous questioning that other heads of state would get? Why isn’t John Humphreys being asked to insist that the Pope gives an explanation for the teachings that hurt so many people – women, gay people, people with HIV/AIDS because condoms are banned – and future generations through over-population.

“After the overkill from the BBC during the Pope’s visit, this indicates the corporation’s obsession with religion, while the nation is largely indifferent to it.”

Protests were in in London in September to mark the Pope’s visit to the UK.

Campaigners attacked his record on gay rights, abortion and HIV/AIDS. Last month, the Pope signalled a shift in policy on condoms, saying that gay male prostitutes may use condoms to prevent HIV.