This is odd and surprising. It would seem most likely that the Pope wanted a secretary from the Islamic world to show his favorable view of Islam, and is unaware of Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaido’s previous statements. He will undoubtedly soon find out, however, if he hasn’t already, and what happens then will be interesting.
Here is Blazing Cat Fur’s modified Google translation of a German-language article: “The Pope’s new Coptic secretary: Islam is a ‘culture of death,’” Blazing Cat Fur, April 29, 2014 (thanks to Jamal):
Pope Francis has a new secretary who speaks Arabic and has very clear words about Islam. It is no coincidence.
The new secretary, Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaido, is a Copt from Egypt, where Christians are a beleaguered minority who have had experience with Islam for 1,350 years. His realistic view of Islam lacks any Western gloss.
The new secretary of Pope Francis is Coptic Catholic Christian and comes from the diplomatic service of the Vatican. In his CV, his critical remarks about Islam stand out…
Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaido was born in 1975. He visited the Diplomatic Academy of the Holy See and entered the diplomatic service in 2007. His first destination was the Apostolic Nuncio to Congo in Brazzaville…
[He came to the Pope’s attention] for his ability to speak Arabic…The Egyptian has become the interpreter of the Pope when he receives news from the Arab world.
Among the friends of the new secretary is another well-known Egyptian, the famous Muslim Magdi Cristiano Allam, a journalist and writer who converted to Christianity, and was baptized by Benedict XVI at the Easter Vigil in 2008 in St. Peter’s Basilica.
There were violent riots in various parts of the Islamic world, including fatalities, as a consequence of this.
Allam has been a member of the European Parliament since 2009. After the election of Pope Francis, he took an increasingly critical position towards the Catholic Church, which he accuses of disregarding the warnings of Benedict XVI and adopting the “dictatorship of relativism” and appearing soft on Islam. He says Islam is a “real threat to Christianity and the freedom of man.”
In his book “Grazie Gesù”(Thank you Jesus) that Allam published in the year of his baptism, he wrote about Father Yoannis Gaido:
Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaido, an Egyptian, deserves a special mention. [He was] for years chaplain to the church of Santa Domitilla in Latina and is currently Secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Brazzaville.
I met him in Rome, and he has given me years of friendship and expressed his solidarity [with me].
He has a profound knowledge of the real Islam, as it is actually present in the hearts and minds of the majority of Muslims, and not distorted by the ignorance, naivety, good nature and ideological blindness of the West, which is exploited by mystifiers and hypocrites.
Father Yoannis shares my position on Islam completely and I was close to him as a brother Christian, as the organized media storm after my conversion, that tried to discredit and defame me, reached its climax.
Allam cited an interview that Father Gaido gave on 31 March 2008:
I have always tried to be a friend that respects the different religion of the other, without being afraid to tell the truth or to emphasize that Christianity is a call to freedom.
And when Magdi asked me about the Copts in Egypt, I did not hide the enormous difficulties under which Christians must live in places with a Muslim majority.
These difficulties are not caused by a few Islamists, but by a culture of death and violence that is based on very clear verses [of their scripture] that they quote, calling for violence and jihad, saying they should murder all who are different and killing [those who express] freedom of conscience. Just to think differently is enough to be sentenced to death.
In 2010, after the anti-Christian massacre on New Year’s Day in Alexandria, Egypt, Father Gaido disagreed with the public declaration of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University. He [the Imam] strongly condemned the words of Pope Benedict XVI on January 2 as “interference” in internal Egyptian affairs.
Al-Azhar broke with the Vatican because of the entirely justified [sic! — RS] criticism of Benedict XVI, so different from the previous boring conversations of the past….