Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Sunday, 5 October 2008 14:33 UK

Pope laments decline of scripture

By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Pope celebrates Mass
The Pope opened proceedings with a solemn Mass

Pope Benedict XVI has opened a synod of more than 200 cardinals and bishops from around the world to examine the modern lack of interest in the Bible.

The Pope lamented what he called the harmful and destructive influence of some forms of modern culture.

This, he said, had decided that God was dead, and man was the sole architect of his destiny and master of creation.

The synod is an advisory body of the Roman Catholic Church, which meets once every three years.

The three-week long proceedings opened with a solemn Mass celebrated by the Pope at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls.

French trip

Growing indifference to religion, particularly in Europe, is a source of concern to the Pope.

He visited France last month, and was clearly referring to that country when he pointed out in his homily that nations once rich in the Christian faith and in vocations for the priesthood seem to be losing their Christian identity.

To mark the opening of the synod, Italian state television will be broadcasting a marathon reading of the whole Bible for the next six days and nights.

The Pope himself will start off the reading with the Book of Genesis.

He will be followed by hundreds of other readers, including Italian politicians, celebrities from the world of entertainment and sport, as well as ordinary Italians - who have never been such enthusiastic readers of the Bible as Christians in Protestant countries.

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