Magdi Allam - from Mohammed to Christ
There is no doubting the need for secrecy in this case - particularly in the wake of recent charges by Osama bin Laden that Benedict XVI is leading a ‘new crusade’ against Islam – but such a high-profile Muslim convert receiving such a high-profile baptism and reception, and on the holiest day of the Christian year, seems almost purposely designed as to cause offence in certain quarters: it is a manifest boast, and certain journalists have not disappointed in their triumphalist recapitulation, as though the denomination were more important than the glory of finding the incomparable Christ. Mr Allam could, after all, have been baptised and received by a local and obscure parish priest in Viterbo, where he lives, and the media would have been none the wiser.
And neither would Cranmer.
According to Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson: ‘For the Catholic church, every person who asks to receive Baptism after a deep personal search, who makes a completely free choice following adequate preparation, has the right to receive it. For his part, the Holy Father administers Baptism in the course of the Easter liturgies to the candidates who are presented to him, without making distinctions among them, considering them all equally important before the love of God and the welcome of the community of the church.’
Without making distinctions? Considering them equally?
So the hundreds of converts eligible to participate in this service drew lots, and all had an equal chance of being selected, did they?
This baptism, after Tony Blair’s reception which was performed personally by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, gives the impression that Rome is not remotely concerned with the last being first: there is a manifest pecking order of privilege.
But Cranmer wonders if the Vatican would have been so high-profile with an anti-Palestine Jewish convert, or might it have been sensitive to the recent accusations of anti-Semitism?
And would the media report anything at all of a Roman Catholic journalist converting to the Church of England? And if it did, would not a high-profile ceremony performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury have been greeted with ridicule or with accusations of anti-Catholic bigotry?