The official Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, has rejected claims in some media reports that the Holy See has “emphasized” the baptism of Magdi Allam, the Muslim convert and associate director of the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera who entered the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.
In an article entitled, “Religious freedom and dialogue,” the Vatican newspaper pointed out that it is tradition for the Holy Father to baptize, confirm and give First Communion to seven adult converts from different parts of the world during the Easter Vigil Mass.
“One of those persons was Egyptian-born journalist Magdi Allam,” the article noted, emphasizing that Allam—whose baptismal name is Christian—“freely chose baptism after a long journey of discernment and personal preparation necessary to take this step.”
“This event, which is so unique, solemn and joyful, has not been emphasized, as can be seen by the confidentiality” with which the event was treated, the newspaper stated.
The article quoted Vatican Press Office Director, Father Federico Lombardi, who explained that the Pope “does not distinguish between persons. Everyone is important before God and welcome in the community of the Church.”
“Benedict XVI’s gesture at the same time has important meaning because it expresses religious freedom with kindness and clarity and that includes the freedom to change one’s religion, as pointed out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,” he added.
The Vatican newspaper also rejected claims that the baptism constituted a “hostile act against such a great religion as Islam. For many decades, the Catholic Church has shown her desire to dialogue with the Muslim world, despite many difficulties and obstacles.”
The problems that exist “should not obscure what we have in common and what will come in the future,” the article stated.