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Pope to deliver 'Thought for the Day' on Radio 4

Months of negotiation behind Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas Eve message

Pope Benedict XVI is to deliver the Christmas Eve "Thought For The Day" message on BBC Radio 4. The pre-recorded message will occupy the first slot on the station's Today programme.

This is the first time that the Pope is delivering a message written for a radio or television audience. His message to Britain is understood to be the result of months of negotiations by the BBC. The corporation's director-general Mark Thompson, who is a Roman Catholic, is believed to be personally involved in the talks.

The Pope's message follows his visit to Britain and Scotland in September this year. The BBC provided blanket coverage of his visit, with more than 10 hours of live broadcasting, on BBC1 and BBC2.

Gwyneth Williams, the controller of BBC Radio 4, said: "It's significant that the Pope has chosen Thought For The Day to give his first personally scripted broadcast - and what better time to do so than on the eve of one of the biggest celebrations on the Christian calendar."

The BBC has been broadcasting Thought For The Day within the Today programme at 7.45am from Monday to Saturday since 1970.