Sunday, March 23, 2008

Religion and Politics


'Pope Benedict XVI presides over the Stations of the Cross ceremony at Rome's Colosseum'


Muslim's conversion conflict hits Vatican on Easter;
The mass came some 12 hours after an Easter vigil service on Saturday night where, in a surprise move, the pope baptized Muslim-born convert Magdi Allam, 55, an outspoken journalist and fierce critic of Islamic extremism.

At the morning Mass, the pope read a prayer saying that after Christ's resurrection some 2,000 years ago "thousands and thousands of people converted to the Christian faith" and he added: "This is a miracle that still renews itself today."

The Egyptian-born Allam's conversion to Christianity -- he took the name "Christian" for his baptism -- was kept secret until the Vatican disclosed it in a statement less than an hour before the Saturday night service began.

Allam, who is a strong supporter of Israel and who an Israeli newspaper once called a "Muslim Zionist," has lived under police protection following threats against him, particularly after he criticized Iran's position on Israel...

"Conversion is a private matter, a personal thing and we hope that the baptism will not be interpreted negatively by Islam," Cardinal Giovanni Re told an Italian newspaper.

Still, Allam's highly public baptism by the pope shocked Italy's Muslim community, with some leaders openly questioning why the Vatican chose to shine such a big spotlight it.

"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. "Why could he have not done this in his local parish?"

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