|Reaching out: The Holy Father will answer questions on TV|
'For the first time in the history of the Vatican, the Pope will respond to questions about his faith on a television programme.
Benedict XVI is expected to speak mostly about Jesus – he has just written the second of two volumes on Christ's life, "Jesus of Nazareth", due to be published on Thursday. He will appear on a religious affairs programme called "In his image", which will be aired on Good Friday - April 22. It will be broadcast at 2.10pm in Italy (1.10pm GMT), the time recognised by the Catholic Church as the moment that Christ died on the cross after being crucified.
A special website will be launched on Sunday to which Catholics can send suggested questions, from which just three will be chosen and put to the German-born pontiff, who was elected in 2005. The programme, on Italy's state broadcaster, RAI, will be pre-recorded at the Vatican a few days before, either in the Pope's study or his personal chapel.
It is expected to be rebroadcast by television networks around the world. It will be the first time that a pontiff has appeared as a guest on a television programme. Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, came closest when he phoned into a popular Italian current affairs show in October 1998. The first pope to appear on film was Leo XII in 1896. Italian television was first allowed into the Vatican in 1961 to profile a day in the life of Pope John XXIII.
Excerpts of Benedict's new book on Jesus were released last week by the Vatican. In it, he insisted that blame for Christ's death lay not with the Jewish people as a whole, as stated by some of the Gospels, but with the small number of Jewish priests and "aristocracy" who demanded his crucifixion. Benedict was underlining a position adopted by the Catholic Church more than 45 years ago, but his unequivocal exoneration was nevertheless welcomed by Jewish groups and Israel.
"I commend you for forcefully rejecting in your recent book a false charge that has been a foundation for the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries," Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, said in a statement. Ronald Lauder, the director of the World Jewish Congress, said: "Two thousand years after the event it really was high time that the head of the Catholic Church made a clear statement on this."'