A Regensburg Convert

Muslims in Kashmir protest Regensburg speech.
Muslims in Kashmir protest Regensburg speech. (photo: CNS/Reuters)

Here’s more evidence that Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about Islam in 2006 at Regensburg, Bavaria, were the exact opposite of a “mistake.”

Magdi Cristiano Allam, the Italian-Egyptian journalist who was baptized by the Pope last Easter, recently explained publicly that the Regensburg speech was directly linked to his conversion.

He said that Benedict’s emphasis on the integration of faith and reason, the central theme of the Regensburg speech, was one of the basic points that sparked his decision to convert to Catholicism.

And, Allam said, the linkage that Benedict alluded to in his speech between violence and Islam — an allusion confirmed by the violent protests that ensued — gave the journalist additional impetus along the road to conversion.

“My conversion was possible thanks to the presence of great witnesses of faith, first of all, His Holiness Benedict XVI,” Allam said in a discussion last week with Italian university students, Zenit reported Dec. 1. “One who is not convinced of his own faith —  often it’s because he has not found in it believable witnesses of this great gift.

“The second indissoluble binomial in Christianity is without a doubt that of faith and reason. This second element is capable of giving substance to our humanity, the sacredness of life, respect for human dignity and the freedom of religious choice.”

According to Allam, “An event, before my conversion, made me think more than other events: the Pope’s discourse in Regensburg. On that occasion, citing the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, he affirmed something that the Muslims themselves have never denied: that Islam spreads the faith above all with the sword.”

Continued Allam, “There is a greater and more subliminal danger than the terrorism of ‘cut-throats.’ It is the terrorism of the ‘cut-tongues,’ that is, the fear of affirming and divulging our faith and our civilization, and it brings us to auto-censorship and to deny our values, putting everything and the contrary to everything on the same plane: We think of the Shariah applied even in England.

“The one called ‘a great one,’ that is, to always give to the other what he wants, is exactly the opposite of the common good, perfectly indicated by Jesus: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ That evangelical precept confirms for us that we cannot want good for the rest if we do not first love ourselves. The same is true for our civilization.”

What to know more about Allam’s extraordinary journey into the Catholic Church?

Check out this account Allam gave to Register correspondent Edward Pentin in early April, just after he was baptized by Benedict.

— Tom McFeely