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A Record for Television Programming - The Bible Live

13/10/2008: Italy

The longest TV transmission ever conducted live on a public broadcast recently took place when the complete Bible, Old and New Testaments, was read on the Rai Italian television station over seven days and six nights, October 5 to 11. The readers included leading figures from the world of religion, politics, theatre and movies, along with hundreds of other well known people. The first two readers were Pope Benedict XVI and Hilario Alfeev, representing Orthodox Patriarch Alejo II.

The Rai Uno station ran the first and last hours of the undertaking which with good reason was entitled “The Bible Day and Night.” After the first hour of transmission, the presentation went over to the satellite frequencies of the educational channel, Rai Edu2. At the Basilica Santa Croce in Jerusalem, for twenty-four hours a day with neither interruption nor commentary (except for musical interludes), around two thousand people proclaimed 1144 segments of the Bible: i.e., 800,000 words, averaging around 4700 words per hour. The two thousand people, including readers (1250) and support personnel, came from thirty-seven countries. An occurrence of this kind is striking not merely in view of the number of people involved, but also because of its ecumenical character. So numerous a participation has confirmed the Bible’s character as a force for unity among different religions.

At the lectern all appeared in their turn: thirty representatives of the Reformation Churches, six Moslems, sixteen Jews, and those from the Orthodox Churches. Among the Catholics were Cardenal Vallini and forty participants from the Synod on the Word of God. The Jewish readers proclaimed some of their texts in Hebrew followed by translation, the same method used by the Orthodox Archbishop Gennadios reading Greek and Syrian Patriarch Gregorio III Laham using Arabic. Among others who read were to be found newspaper editors such as Dino Boffo (Avvenire) and Giovanni Maria Vian (L’Osservatore Romano), along with various political figures, among whom were three former Presidents of Italy: Scalfaro, Cossiga and Ciampi. In addition, three weak-sighted readers used a Braille text, and one person mute and deaf was assisted by an interpreter. As representative of the Marist Brothers, Brother Onorino Rota, Superior of the Generalate community, read an excerpt from the Prophet Isaiah.

Giuseppe De Carli, director of Rai-Vatican who along with Elena Balestri created the Bible-reading project, explained the interrupted structure of the reading this way. “We made the decision to structure the reading without interruptions after seeing Roberto Benigni’s recitation of Dante’s Divine Comedy on Rai Uno. If it was possible to create such an appealing show out of a literary classic, all the more were we ready to try the same sort of thing with the Bible.” The feedback has revealed the success of the idea. From the moment the chance arose of signing up via email for reading the biblical segments, the internet site “The Bible Day and Night” received more than 183,000 applications.

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