MUMBAI: This Christmas, UK pubcaster The BBC‘s religious programming goes behind the scenes of one of Britain‘s most treasured places of worship - Westminster Abbey.
Actor David Suchet will embark on a personal journey following in the footsteps of St Paul; writer and historian Simon Sebag Montefiore will explore Rome, the Eternal City; and, as he prepares to step down as Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams will intimately reveal the beauty and heritage of Canterbury Cathedral.
Live worship on BBC One comes from St Anne‘s Cathedral, Leeds and St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol. And BBC Radio 4 will herald the start of Christmas Day with a live broadcast from Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.
BBC Commissioning Editor Religion and Head of Religion & Ethics Aaqil Ahmed said, "As we prepare for Christmas, it is befitting that Westminster Abbey is at the heart of our celebrations given it‘s unique stature at the centre of national worship in this country. Throughout the Christmas period there will also be a diverse rich mix of traditional carols, festive music, contemplation, conversation and live worship across BBC Television and Radio.
Christmas preparations start on BBC One on Sunday mornings, with the return of ‘Fern Britton Meets‘, the series in which Fern talks to people in the public eye about their faith. Throughout the Advent season, ‘Songs Of Praise‘ presents four special programmes. On Advent Sunday, Sir Derek Jacobi and Sheila Hancock herald the start of the season with a selection of poems and readings that focus on the preparation for Christ‘s birth.
In ‘Wartime Christmas‘, Aled Jones visits Holy Cross Church in Greenford, Middlesex, a building conceived on the eve of the Second World War and completed in 1941.
Also in the run up to the festive period is a two-part series on BBC One - ‘David Suchet: In The Footsteps Of St Paul‘, which follows the actor as he goes on a personal journey in search of this enigmatic man and his mission.
BBC One will herald the start of Christmas Day with the traditional Midnight Mass, live from St Anne‘s Cathedral in Leeds.
On the Sunday after Christmas, in Celebrating 2012 Big Sing, Alfie Boe and soprano sensation Laura Wright are the guest soloists to join 5,000 voices in the Royal Albert Hall for spectacular hymns that reflect this historic year for the United Kingdom. Aled Jones meets Olympic gold medalists Helen Glover and Heather Stanning and there‘s a special performance by the Songs of Praise Senior School Choir of the Year from St George‘s College in Weybridge.
And on New Year‘s Day BBC One will broadcast the Archbishop of Canterbury‘s annual New Year‘s Message.
Next month, BBC Two presents Westminster Abbey, a three-part series that takes a behind-the-scenes look at one of Britain‘s most historic institutions, following the rhythm of the liturgical calendar from Candlemas to preparations for Christmas. Featuring interviews with members of the 250 staff who oversee the Abbey‘s spiritual mission, to ensure the upkeep of a World Heritage site and co-ordinate 1,500 services a year.
On Christmas Eve, BBC Two presents Carols From King‘s. This traditional celebration of the birth of Christ is the television programme that for many marks the true start of Christmas. The sight and sound of a lone choirboy singing Once in Royal David‘s City amid the candlelit fan-vaulted splendour of the Chapel of King‘s College, Cambridge is the beginning of a feast of Christmas words and music. The Christmas story is told in the words of the King James‘ Bible and in poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, William Austin and Laurie Lee, and the world-famous Chapel Choir, under the direction of Stephen Cleobury, sing carols old and new, including The Holly and the Ivy, Good Christian Men Rejoice and The Angel Gabriel.
For BBC Four in a new three-part series, Rome: A History Of The Eternal City, historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, uncovers the central role played by religion in creating and maintaining the power of the city of Rome, from its foundations to the modern day. From its founding myth and its pagan gods whose actions dictated the politics of ancient Rome, to the time that a new cult from the East threatened the status quo - Christianity.