More than 12-hundred people will participate in reading the Bible on Italian state television.
Benedict read several passages from the Book of Genesis from his apartments in the Vatican.
Other religious leaders followed, along with politicians and artists. Tenor Andrea Bocelli sang between the readings.
Over the next seven days and six nights, all 73 books of the Catholic Bible will be read.
Earlier, Pope Benedict opened a major Vatican meeting on scripture by criticizing modern culture. He argued that there's so little faith nowadays, people are saying God is dead and nations are losing their religious identity. He warned that attempts to "brush God aside" lead to arrogance, selfishness, injustice, exploitation and violence.