Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New Era of Catholic Evangelism in Muslim Lands?

What a special event it was: Magdi Allam, a well-known Muslim from Italy, was baptized by Pope Benedict XVI this Easter. Allam's own comment was:

His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims.

I cannot believe that Allam gives his own opinions here; he was not baptized by the Pope to immediately embarrass him with some strongly worded statement about a new vision of the Church that does not reflect the views of the Pope. I believe that we hear the words, at least the mind, of the Pope himself in Allam's words.

And that is amazing. For all Christians in the Muslim world, whether they are Roman-Catholic or not, this is a very encouraging new approach of the Pope. If I am not mistaken, our brother Benedict XVI wants to see Jesus lifted high, and vigorously evangelize Muslims!

For the complete testimony of Allam, see HERE.

On the other hand... this is what the media wrote later:

The convert from Islam who denounced what he called "inherent" violence in Islam a day after Pope Benedict XVI baptized him was not expressing the pope's views, a Vatican spokesman said Thursday.

Allam "has the right to express his own ideas, which remain his personal ideas, without obviously becoming in any way the official expression of the positions of the pope or the Holy See," said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the chief Vatican spokesman. He told Vatican Radio that "to welcome into the church a new believer obviously does not signify marrying all his ideas and views, particularly on political or social subjects."

Among those criticizing the Vatican for allowing Allam to convert in such a high-profile way was a Muslim scholar, Aref Ali Nayed, who participated in recent Vatican talks to improve Catholic-Muslim relations.

Nayed, who directs the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan, denounced what he called "the Vatican's deliberate and provocative act." Nayed also expressed dismay that the baptism was held while "sincere Muslims and Catholics are working very hard to mend ruptures."

Earlier this month, Nayed participated in two days of talks at the Vatican to prepare for an audience in November between the pontiff and Muslim religious leaders and scholars. Lombardi said the Vatican holds Nayed in "very high esteem" and expressed satisfaction that he still was wants to pursue dialogue.

Allam has built his career as commentator and book author on attacking Islamic extremism and supporting Israel.On Tuesday, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano described his baptism as a papal "gesture" aimed at stressing religious freedom and harboring "no hostile intentions" toward Islam.

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