Pope Benedict XVI will kick off a week-long reading of the Bible on Italian television starting Sunday, with readers to include three former presidents and Oscar-winning actor Roberto Benigni.
Some 2,000 people will take turns reading the Bible's 73 books, from the Old Testament's Genesis to the New Testament's Book of Revelations, at Rome's Holy Cross in Jerusalem basilica.
The pope will record the first reading at the Vatican.
Senator for life Giulio Andreotti, former presidents Francesco Cossiga, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi as well as several ministers in the centre-right government of Silvio Berlusconi including his top aide Gianni Letta will be among the readers.
From the world of entertainment, Benigni ("Life Is Beautiful") will be joined by filmmaker Michele Placido and blind tenor Andrea Bocelli.
A number of Muslims and Jews will also take part, but Rome's grand rabbi Riccardo Di Segni declined an invitation, telling Italian media the event seemed "too Catholic" for him though he had total respect for the initiative.
Di Segni will however become the first Jewish holy man to take part in a bishops' synod to open Sunday at the Vatican.
The Jewish holy book the Torah comprises the first five books of the Old Testament, while the New Testament is exclusive to Christianity.
Muslims consider the Bible as a precursor to their holy book, the Koran.
Copyright AFP 2008