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3/22/08 Christianity - Easter: Pope Baptizes Prominent Italian Muslim

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Christianity - Easter: Pope Baptizes Prominent Italian Muslim

Italy's most prominent Muslim, an iconoclastic writer who condemned Islamic extremism and defended Israel, converted to Catholicism Saturday in a baptism by the pope at a Vatican Easter service. An Egyptian-born, non-practicing Muslim who is married to a Catholic, Magdi Allam infuriated some Muslims with his books and columns in the newspaper Corriere della Sera newspaper, where he is a deputy editor. He titled one book ``Long Live Israel.''

As a choir sang, Pope Benedict XVI poured holy water over Allam's head and said a brief prayer in Latin.``We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another,'' Benedict said in a homily reflecting on the meaning of baptism. ``Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close.''

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