Peter Tatchell, one of Britain’s most famous gay activists, is to present a Channel 4 documentary on the Pope.
According to the broadcaster, the programme will examine the Catholic leader’s beliefs on issues such as homosexuality and condoms and present views from his critics and supporters.
Mr Tatchell is one of the founders of the Protest the Pope coalition, which is planning demonstrations of the state funding of the Pontiff’s UK visit.
Catholic figures have questioned whether he is the best person to host the programme, which will be screened ahead of the September trip.
Former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, a convert to the religion, told the Daily Telegraph the programme would be “hostile” and “stir up controversy”.
Cristina Odone, a Catholic commentator for the paper, said it was likely to be a “polemical, knee-jerk reaction” and that Mr Tatchell would admit he is “no authority on the subject”.
Mr Tatchell defended the show, saying: “My aim is to make a robustly factual programme that explores the Pope’s personal, religious and political journey since the 1930s, as well as the motives and effects of his controversial policies.”
He added that he hoped to interview the Pontiff but admitted this was unlikely to happen.
“I intend to ensure that we hear the voices of the Pope’s defenders, as well as his critics,” he said.
Mr Tatchell added he had been inspired by Catholic humanitarians such as the editor of the Catholic Worker, Dorothy Day, and US anti-war activists, Fathers Daniel and Philip Berrigan.
Ralph Lee, head of specialist factual programming at Channel Four, said: “The Papal visit in September provides an ideal opportunity to examine the impact of Benedict XVI after five years in office.
“In keeping with Channel 4′s remit to provide a platform for diverse and alternative perspectives, equality campaigner Peter Tatchell will assess the effect of the current Pope’s teachings throughout the world and the conflict between some of his values and those held by modern Britain.”