A Bible reading marathon organized by Vatican television together with the state Italian TV company RAI was launched in Rome on 5 October 2008. This weeklong project will feature 1248 specially selected readers, among them former Italian presidents, incumbent cabinet ministers, football stars, foreign diplomats, cardinals, intellectuals, actors, opera singers and everyday citizens. They will read the Bible in Italian non-stop, from the first to the last page.
The marathon was started by Pope Benedict XVI, who read the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. He was immediately followed by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Vienna and Austria, representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Union, who read the second chapter of the Book of Genesis.
The first segment ended with the actor-director of Life Is Beautiful, Roberto Benigni. The tenor Andrea Bocelli sang between readings.
The first hour of the project was aired live by RAI-Uno and Eurovision. Live broadcast of the following days will be led by RAI-Education, several satellite channels and Radio Vaticana.
"It was for the first time that the largest state-owned TV channel had initiated live broadcast of reading the whole Bible. At the time when secular television pays so little attention to religious issues, this project seems critically important," Bishop Hilarion said to Interfax-Religion. According to him, the project has an important missionary meaning, as due to this initiative "Bible will enter homes of many people who speak Italian."
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