Reuters: Pope's Secret Muslim Baptism

Here we go; back to the Middle Ages and the Church's secret baptisms.
Pope baptizes famous Muslim convert
By Philip Pullella

Pope Benedict led the world's Catholics into Easter on Saturday at a Vatican service where he baptized a Muslim-born convert who is one of Italy's most famous and controversial journalists.

The German-born pontiff, marking the third Easter season of his pontificate, began the service in the atrium of a darkened St Peter's Basilica where he carved the Greek letters Alpha and Omega on a large candle.

The basilica became a sea of flickering flames as thousands of faithful inside lit candles before the lights were turned on in a ritual symbolizing the darkness in the world after Christ's death and the light of the resurrection.

Easter, the most important day in the Church's liturgical calendar, commemorates Christ rising from the dead three days after he was crucified.

In his sermon, Benedict wove a connection between the resurrection of Christ and the sacrament of baptism, the initiation rite of Christianity.

"...from the abyss of death he was able to rise to life. Now he raises us from death to true life. This is exactly what happens in baptism," the pope said.

The pope traditionally baptizes newborns on January 1 and adult converts to Catholicism on Easter eve.

One of the seven adults he baptized on Saturday night was Magdi Allam, 55, an Egyptian-born journalist who, as deputy director of the leading newspaper Corriere della Sera, is one of Italy's best-known intellectuals.

Allam, a fierce critic of Islamic extremism and a strong supporter of Israel, is protected by a police escort because of threats he has received.


His conversion to Christianity was a well-kept secret, disclosed by the Vatican in a statement less than an hour before the Easter eve service started.

"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," it said.

Allam defended the pope in 2006 when the pontiff made a speech in Regensburg, Germany, that many Muslims perceived as depicting Islam as a violent faith.

The Vatican statement announcing Allam was joining Catholicism said all newcomers were "equally important before God's love and welcome in the community of the Church."

Allam, who has been living in Italy for 35 years, has said he was never a very devout Muslim. Still, his conversion to Christianity came as a surprise.

"What amazes me is the high profile the Vatican has given this conversion," Yaha Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, vice-president of the Italian Islamic Religious Community, told Reuters.

The Easter eve service was the first of three at which the pope presides. On Sunday he will celebrate a mass and then deliver his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing and message.


John D. Enright said...

Secret, huh? You're one of the chosen people (pun intended) to be let in on the secret?

I really don't know what you're talking about, since the Baptism occurred publicly, during a Mass televised internationally. Here in the United States, it was telecast on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), which by the way, is the largest television network in the world.

Anyway, where do you come by the right to criticize the Baptism of a former Muslim by a Catholic prelate? What business is it of yours?

You've already taken it upon yourself to decide which prayers may be said by Catholic clerics during Catholic liturgical ceremonies properly attended only by Catholics. Now you're going to determine who can become Catholic?

Really classless, Rabbi. BTW, I'll shortly reply to your most recent Catholic bashing posts. I couldn't do so earlier because of my observance of Holy Week.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

Just read the article, then shoot me if you want to. "WELL-KEPT SECRET" - "His conversion to Christianity was a well-kept secret, disclosed by the Vatican in a statement less than an hour before the Easter eve service started."

What business is it of mine? C'mon. First, I am a professor of religion - it is literally my business. Second, you cannot have it both ways. You broadcast it on TV - making it a world-wide political event and then, and then, and then you have the unmitigated chutzpah to imply that this is a private matter of faith between a meek man and a humble prelate. Nobody buys that.

This pope has opened wounds with the Jews and has gone back to the middle ages with the muslims. Why is he above criticism?

He acts like a coarse politician and religious bully and then you cringe when the rest of the world does not defer to him and treat him like a meek holy man.

Open your eyes. He has set forth on a plan in the here and now to convert the Jews and the Muslims. This is not an eschatological fantasy - this is a project plan for the church.

And I am a target. So yes I have the right to criticize, indeed the obligation to push back.

John D. Enright said...

Rabbi, you have to be kidding. Before acceptance into the Church, a catechumen must attend a series of lessons regarding Christian faith and morals over a period of time. That part was obviously accomplished privately, and with good reason. As a Professor of Religion, I'm sure you recognize that Muslims who covert to Christianity - or Judaism for that matter - are considered apostates by the Muslim faith, and thus, they incur the penalty of death under Sharia Law. Anyone announcing intentions to convert from Islam invites disaster of the greatest magnitude.

As a Rabbi, would you publicize the prospective conversion of a Muslim to Judaism needlessly while knowing that doing so would place your student at great risk of death? You honestly can't say that you would do so without confessing that you are narcissistic.

The preparation of Aref Ali Nayed to enter the Christian faith as a communicant was a private matter for good and obvious reasons. The actual Baptism, which by its very nature is a public proclamation of the acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, was NOT in any manner whatsoever secret.

Your blog entry raises the spectre of evil occult-like mumbo-jumbo foisted on an unsuspecting and unwilling participant. That, in itself, is a disingenuous slam at Catholicism in general and Mr. Nayed in particular.

By implying that Mr. Nayed's conversion to Catholicism was anything less than a knowing and voluntary acceptance of Jesus is unfortunate, since Mr. Nayed is one of the few internationally recognized Arabs who genuinely support the State of Israel.

If this is how you treat your friends, I'd hate to be your enemy.

John D. Enright said...

Rabbi, I forgot to mention your comment that the Pope "has gone back to the middle ages with the muslims." I assume you're referring to the brouhaha resulting from a speech delivered to Catholic seminarians in September, 2006. In that speech, the Pontiff QUOTED Byzantine Emperor Manual Paleologos, a Greek Orthodox Christian, who said to an Islamic scholar "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The Pope said "I quote" twice to stress that the words were not his and he added that violence was "incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul".

I understand that the speech caused an uproar. Those who were roaring, however, failed to understand either the Emperor or the Pope.

Let me ask you this: do you disagree with either the Emperor or the Pope?

Tzvee Zahavy said...


You take me to task over quoting Reuters. I make no pretense of original reporting on this issue.

Yes, I absolutely do disagree with Emperor and the Pope regarding Islam. Citing a bigoted statement from the middle ages is okay with you? Islam has done myriads of wonderful things for its members and for the world.

If you ask me which religion is a greater danger for the Jews - I let history speak. In the 20th century 6 million Jews were murdered in Christian Europe. Same century, accounting for all Arab-Israeli wars, conflicts and terrorism - 25,000 maximum dead Jews.

In the 20th century Christian culture was 240 times deadlier than Islamic culture for the Jews.

Get it?

John D. Enright said...

Rabbi, with all due respect, and I do respect you as a man of honor with a profound love of the Almighty, I have to disagree with you entirely on this point. What did the Emperor make a mistake about? What new did Islam bring to humanity? A profound new understanding of G-d? I don't think so. Any new messages? No, I don't think so.

Fast forward to today. Do the Jews or the Christians seek to spread the faith by violence? No. Do the Muslims?

As far as the Pope is concerned, you obviously did not read his speech. He said that faith in G-d MUST NOT BE IMPOSED BY FORCE! (Sorry for yelling at you, but I think you needed it! LOL.)

I agree that most of the Muslims are peaceful, and do not seek violent confrontation with the West. But even if 1% of them seek to foster their faith by violence, then you're looking at an enemy of 10 million people. How many people live in Israel?