March 31, 2008


Why the Pope Has Bin Laden Running Scared (Colleen Carroll Campbell, March 27, 2008, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

So why does Benedict infuriate bin Laden?

A glimpse of an answer came Saturday, during the Easter vigil Mass that Benedict celebrated in Rome. Among seven converts to the Catholic faith whom he baptized was a former Muslim named Magdi Allam, an Egyptian-born Italian journalist known for his outspoken criticism of Islamist extremism.

Allam has been a leading voice of moderate Islam, a staunch supporter of Israel and a fierce critic of Islamist jihadists who murder in the name of God. Death threats have forced Allam to travel with armed guards, and he expects that his Christian conversion will lead to more calls for his head. But Allam says the risk is worthwhile, and he cites Benedict's message about the compatibility of faith and reason as an inspiration for his conversion.

Predictably, Benedict's decision to personally and publicly baptize Allam was blasted by several Muslim leaders. The Vatican newspaper responded by describing the baptism as Benedict's attempt to affirm "in a gentle and clear way, religious freedom."

The message was clear, indeed. The baptism signaled Benedict's belief that religious tolerance must be a two-way street. As he proclaimed in his Regensburg speech, authentic interfaith dialogue, like authentic religious conversion, can happen only when violence is rejected as a means of persuasion and reason is embraced as a means of finding common ground.

Benedict's penchant for promoting peace with strength and telling the truth in charity has irked some Muslim leaders, but it has allowed him to make remarkable inroads with others. Earlier this month, some 10,000 Catholics attended the opening Mass of the first Catholic church ever built in the Sunni Muslim country of Qatar, where Christians have been forced to worship underground for decades. A few days later, Vatican officials confirmed that they are in talks with Saudi Arabia to open a Catholic church in that country, where Christianity remains officially illegal. And the interfaith dialogue that Benedict began with a rocky start at Regensburg has blossomed into a significant initiative that will bring 48 Muslim and Catholic scholars together at the Vatican this fall to discuss the theme, "Love of God, Love of Neighbor."

He realizes he's dialoguing from a position of strength.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 31, 2008 8:55 AM

One of the single greatest reasons one can have for throwing one's support behind a man, regardless of differences you may or may not have with him, is that he is pissing off all the right people.

Posted by: Andrew X at March 31, 2008 10:22 AM

Allowing Latin masses, citing Tocqueville and praising US democracy, denouncing relativist mush, challenging Islamists, telling Europe they're on a road to nowhere...this guy has exceeded even my high expectations.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at March 31, 2008 6:32 PM