Pope Benedict has baptised Magdi Allam, a Muslim-born journalist who has converted to Catholicism, during an historic Easter mass. A statement released by the Vatican less than an hour before the start of the Saturday ceremony confirmed Mr Allam’s conversion, adding: “For the Catholic Church, each person who asks to receive baptism after a deep personal search, a fully free choice and adequate preparation, has a right to receive it.”
After baptising Mr Allam – who was born in Egypt – Pope Benedict said a homily reflecting on the meaning of the procedure. “We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another,” he explained. “Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close.”
Muslim commentators have said Mr Allam’s baptism was his own decision but have criticised the high profile his conversion was given by the Vatican.
Italian editor and critic of Islamic extremism Magdi Allam, who converted to Catholicism from Islam and was baptised by Pope Benedict XVI, today branded his former faith as intrinsically violent.”I had to do this (abandon Islam)”, Allam wrote in a long letter to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. “Beyond … the phenomenon of extremists and Islamist terrorism at the global level, the root of evil is inherent to a physiologically violent and historically conflictual Islam,” wrote the Egyptian-born journalist.
Regarding a combative tone that has made him famous in Italy, Allam wrote: “Over the years my spirit has been freed from the obscurantism of an ideology that legitimises lies and deception, violent death that leads to homicide and suicide, blind submission to tyranny.” He described Catholicism as “an authentic religion of Truth, Life and Freedom”.