Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Easter message from Rome

What an amazing Easter Vigil in Rome. What a message the Pope has sent to the world, reminding everyone that all are welcome to join the Church.

VATICAN CITY - Italy's most prominent Muslim, an iconoclastic writer who condemned Islamic extremism and defended Israel, converted to Catholicism Saturday in a baptism by the pope at a Vatican Easter service.

An Egyptian-born, non-practicing Muslim who is married to a Catholic, Magdi Allam infuriated some Muslims with his books and columns in the newspaper Corriere della Sera newspaper, where he is a deputy editor. He titled one book "Long Live Israel."

As a choir sang, Pope Benedict XVI poured holy water over Allam's head and said a brief prayer in Latin.

"We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another," Benedict said in a homily reflecting on the meaning of baptism. "Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close."
Allam has been a figure of some controversy in Italy, and due to threats against his life he has police protection.
"Having been condemned to death, I have reflected a long time on the value of life. And I discovered that behind the origin of the ideology of hatred, violence and death is the discrimination against Israel. Everyone has the right to exist except for the Jewish state and its inhabitants," he said. "Today, Israel is the paradigm of the right to life."

In 2006, Allam was a co-winner, with three other journalists, of the $1 million Dan David prize, named for an Israeli entrepreneur. Allam was cited for "his ceaseless work in fostering understanding and tolerance between cultures."