On Easter services at the Vatican, Pope Benedict baptized a Muslim-born convert, who is among Italy’s most famous and controversial journalists. Magdi Allam, a 55-year old Egyptian-born journalists and fierce critic of Islamic extremism and strong supporter of Israel, kept his conversion to Christianity a well-kept secret, disclosed by the Vatican in a statement less than an hour before Easter evening services began. For the Catholic Church, each person who asks to receive baptism after a deep personal search, a fully free choice and adequate preparation, has a right to receive it,” the letter said. In 2006, Allam defended the Pope when made a statement that many Muslims perceived and depicted Islam as a violent faith. Allam has stated that he was never a devout Muslim; while he never prayed five times a day or fasted during Ramadan, he did make the pilgrimage to Mecca with his deeply religious mother in 1991. The Union of Islamic Communities in Italy – which Allam has criticized as having links to Hamas – was quoted as saying “He is an adult, free to make his personal choice in a statement by the group’s spokesman, Issedin El Zir.