Pope Baptizes Islam Critic

Date: 24 Mar 2008


Pope Baptizes Islam Critic 
March 23
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has baptized Muslim-born Islam critic Magdi Allam who converted to Roman Catholicism in an Easter vigil mass at St Peter's Basilica in Vatican city late on Saturday, March 22. 
"To the Catholic Church, anyone has the right to be baptized who is making a fully free choice after a deep personal quest and adequate preparation," Vatican Spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement cited by Reuters.
Allam, a 55-year-old Italian journalist of Egyptian origin, adopted the name of Cristiano (Christian), not a common name in Italy.
Living in Italy for 35 years, he has said he was never a very devout Muslim.
His conversion to Christianity was a well-kept secret, disclosed by the Vatican less than an hour before the Easter eve service started.
Allam, an editorial writer and deputy publisher of the mass-circulation Corriere della Sera, was known for his harsh criticism of Islam and Muslims.
He stanchly defended Pope Benedict after his controversial 2006 lecture in which he cited criticism of Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) by an ancient Roman emperor.
The speech sparked massive protests in the Muslim world and strained relations between the Vatican and the main Muslim religious authorities.
Allam, one of Italy's most famous and controversial journalists, is a strong supporter of Israel.
He blames the Palestinians, rather thank the Israeli occupation, for the continuous conflict in the Middle East.
Allam has been for long protected by a police escort because of threats he has allegedly received.
Only a few hours after his baptization, Allam attacked Islam and branded it as an intrinsically violent faith.
"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," he wrote in a letter published by his della Sera on Sunday, March 23.
"Over the years my spirit has been freed from the obscurantism of an ideology that legitimizes lies and deception, violent death that leads to homicide and suicide, blind submission to tyranny."
He stressed that through his public baptization the pope "sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too cautious in the conversion of Muslims."
Yaha Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, vice-president of the Italian Islamic Religious Community, downplayed Allam's conversion."What amazes me is the high profile the Vatican has given this conversion."