Pope provokes Muslim anger by baptising controversial journalist

Pope provokes Muslim anger

by baptising controversial journalist

Excerpts and my remarks put into Times Online

 

Magdi Allam, who converted to Catholicism from Islam, is baptised by Pope Benedict XV
Magdi Allam is baptised by Pope Benedict XVI

Richard Owen of The Times, in Rome 

Pope Benedict XVI has risked (more appropriate to use provoked) a renewed rift with the Muslim world by baptising a converted Muslim born journalist who describes Islam as intrinsically violent and characterised by “hate and intolerance” rather than “love and respect for others”.

In a surprise move at the Easter vigil at St Peter’s on Saturday night, the Pope baptised Magdi Allam, 55, an outspoken Egyptian-born critic of Islamic extremism and supporter of Israel.

Mr Allam’s conversion was kept secret until less than an hour before the service. He took the middle name “Christian” for his baptism.

After the baptism, the Pope said that faith “is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close (in Christianity).”

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However the move revived memories of the Muslim fury which greeted Pope Benedict’s speech at Regensburg University in German in 2006 in which he branded Islam as inherently violent, inhumane and irrational by quoting a Byzantine emperor.

However, in a combative article for Corriere della Sera, the Italian paper of which he is a deputy editor, Mr Allam – who has lived in Italy most of his adult life and has a Catholic wife . . . .

Mr Allam, who was educated at a Salesian Catholic school in Egypt and was one of seven adults baptised during the Easter vigil, which is traditionally used for adult conversion ceremonies.

He said that by baptising him publicly the Pope had “sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too cautious in the conversion of Muslims because of the fear of being unable to protect the converted, who are condemned to death for apostasy”.

Muslim groups in Italy said Mr Allam would have done better to have undergone a low key conversion at a local parish. “What amazes me is the high profile the Vatican has given this conversion,” said Yaha Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, deputy head of the Italian Islamic Religious Community.

Today, Pope Benedict celebrated Easter Mass on St Peter’s Square, calling for an end to “(MUTUAL) injustice, (MUTUAL) hatred and (MUTUAL) violence.”

The Pope called for “solutions that will safeguard peace and the common good in Tibet, the Middle East and African regions such as Darfur and Somalia.

He deplored “the many wounds (including you, Pope, had inflicted now on Muslims) that continue to disfigure humanity in our own day. These are the scourges of humanity, open and festering in every corner of the planet, (at St Peter’s on Saturday night) , although they are often ignored and sometimes deliberately concealed; wounds (including this that Pope himself had inflicted) that torture the souls and bodies of countless of our brothers and sisters“.

He called for “an active commitment to justice (from your Christian point of view) in areas bloodied by conflict and wherever the dignity of the human person (dignity of Islam not included) continues to be scorned and trampled”.

Last week, the Pope broke his silence on Tibet, calling for for an end to violence and urging “dialogue and tolerance.” But Beijing brushed off the appeal, declaring there was “no tolerance for criminals, who will be punished by the law.” Neither the Easter message nor the Good Friday meditations specifically mentioned China, a reflection of the Vatican’s desire not to upset its dialogue with Beijing over the fate of the country’s Catholics.

 

Vatican and Muslims’ permanent dialogue

Vatican and Muslims

to establish permanent dialogue

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican and Muslim leaders agreed on Wednesday to establish a regular official dialogue to improve often difficult relations between the two religions.

 

 

File photo of Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican April 1, 2007.

 

The Vatican and Muslim leaders agreed on Wednesday to establish a regular official dialogue to improve often difficult relations between the two religions. (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Files)A joint statement said the first meeting of the “The Catholic-Muslim Forum” will take place on Nov. 4-6 in Rome with 24 religious leaders and scholars from each side.

It said the themes of the first session would be “Love of God, Love of Neighbour”, “Theological and Spiritual Foundation”, and “Human Dignity and Mutual Respect”.

Pope Benedict will address the group, the statement said.

The announcement was made at the end of a two-day meeting at the Vatican with five representatives of a group of more than 200 Muslims who had signed an unprecedented appeal to the pope to begin a dialogue.

Catholic-Muslim relations nosedived in 2006 after Benedict delivered a lecture in Regensburg, Germany, that was taken by Muslims to imply that Islam was violent and irrational.

Muslims around the world protested and the pope sought to make amends when he visited Turkey’s Blue Mosque and prayed towards Mecca with its Imam.

After the fallout from the Regensburg speech, 138 Muslim scholars and leaders wrote to the German-born pontiff and other Christian leaders last year, saying “the very survival of the world itself” may depend on dialogue between the two faiths.

The signatories of the Muslim appeal for theological dialogue, called the “Common Word”, has grown to nearly 225 since.

Although Benedict repeatedly expressed regret for the reaction to his speech in Regensburg, he stopped short of a clear apology sought by Muslims.

The Vatican side at the preparatory meeting that ended on Wednesday was headed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The Muslims were led by Sheikh Addal Hakim Murad, also known as Timothy J. Winter, president of the Britain’s Muslim Academic Trust and included Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, vice-president of the Italian Islamic Religious Community.

“We have to bring the dialogue up to date following the great successes of the pontificate of John Paul II,” Pallavicini told Reuters in an interview before the meeting.

Pallavicini said the meeting later this year would undoubtedly talk about terrorism.

“Terrorism is one thing that has to be discussed,” he said. “All religious leaders must renew a message of peace in their faith. Then it will be easier to isolate extremists and avoid the wrong use of religion,” he said.

Copyright © 2008 Reuters