One of the most influential and vocal Muslims in Italy became a Roman Catholic at the hands of Pope Benedict XVI at the Holy Saturday liturgy for Easter! You have to give it to this Pope, he is afraid of NOTHING and NO ONE!
Magdi Allam traveled to Mecca as a child but as a man he came to Rome and made it his home. The deputy editor for the newspaper CORRIERE DELLA SERA, his commentary for non-violence and toleration had already earned him the death sentence from radical Islamic voices. Now there are renewed cries from the terrorists for the death of the Pope!
Of course, although both his parents were Muslim, he made no secret that he had never really practiced his faith. Having gone to a Catholic boarding school in Egypt and later attending La Sapienza University of Rome, his religious formation had always been more Catholic than Muslim. This might seem to mitigate against the sensationalism, but we need to remember that Christians and Muslims do not view faith in the same way. While we would put great emphasis upon practice and sacraments, the Islamic world still considers Magdi Allam as Muslim because his father was Muslim. Islam really makes no provision for defection and conversion to another faith. Having said this, the old code also stressed that once baptized a Catholic, always a Catholic… even if a bad one. In the eyes of the radical Islamic world, Agid Allam is a traitor and has gone from being a “prominent” Muslim to a “detested” one.
The more reasoned voices acknowledge that this was Magdi Allam’s personal choice, and not a concerted effort by the Church to compel conversion upon Muslims. Ironically, Christians continue to face serious persecution in Islamic nations and forced conversions are a daily occurrence.
Allam stated, “Undoubtedly the most extraordinary and significant encounter in the decision to convert was that with Pope Benedict XVI.” He became enamoured by the Holy Father’s precise depiction of the connection “between faith and reason as the basis of authentic religion and human civilization.” In other words, this was no conversion for convenience sake or because of emotionalism, but rather because of reason and the nature of reality. It was the TRUTH that brought him to this step. Jesus is Lord and the Church is his saving community. We believe as Christians that it is this Truth that will set us FREE.
The Holy Father baptized and confirmed Allam after offering the following reflection during the homily:
We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another. Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close.
Along with six others, he later received holy communion. His marriage to a Catholic wife was transformed from a natural bond to a sacrament. He received in all, four sacraments that Saturday night.