Francis: The Pope's Calling

A programme to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 tomorrow (Thursday 2 October) will examine the impact that Pope Francis has had on the Church and the world since he was elected to the papacy 18 months ago.

Francis: The Pope's Calling is part of The Report series. It will take as its starting point the moment when the phone rang at the office of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and a man asked to speak to Eugenio Scalfari, the paper's 90 year old founder and a prominent atheist. The caller was Pope Francis. 

"Scalfari drew a picture of a 'revolutionary' Pope, set on reforming Church bureaucracy, punishing paedophilia and re-examining priestly celibacy," says the BBC's Director of News and Current Affairs who is presenting The Report tomorrow. "It's just one example of the style that has seen Pope Francis labelled the 'cold-call Pope' - someone who has swapped the traditional, measured means of papal communication for off the cuff statements and direct outreach to Catholics and non-Catholics alike." 

Harding says he has set out to understand what he calls "one of the world's most fascinating and charismatic leaders". He will be asking how Pope Francis really operates, whether he heralds a revolution in style or substance, and whether his popularity can survive in the face of such high expectations. "The Report will ask whether a 'revolutionary' really has taken over at the Vatican," he says.

The Report has been scheduled by BBC Radio 4 to coincide with the Extraordinary Synod on the Family which opens in the Vatican on Sunday. Calling for a Day of Prayer for the Synod, Pope Francis said: "I hope the people in our parishes ... will pray to the two saints of this synod - Pope Saint John XXIII and Pope Saint John Paul II - and ask for their guidance on the work of the Church in this very important moment of its history."

Francis: The Pope's Calling will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm on Thursday 2 October 2014.

Photo: Pope Francis talks freely with journalists on the plane after World Youth Day in Brazil (AP).