Stories of new converts

This is not a particularly successful season for converts to Christianity. Often more respect is shown to those who “dialogue” from outside of the Church than to those who embrace the Christian faith and ask for baptism.

But it is also true that conversions to Catholicism are more numerous than one might think. Departing from the most diverse shores, even the most distant and hostile.

Four years after a first series of interviews collected in the volume “Nuovi cristiani d’Europa. Dieci storie di conversione tra fede e ragione,” Lorenzo Fazzini – a journalist and the dynamic director of EMI, Editrice Missionaria Italiana – has returned to explore eight more stories of great converts.

The last interview in this new series was released on Sunday, September 1 in the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference, “Avvenire.” And it is with a convert from Islam to Christianity, born and raised in Turkey and today living in Germany.

His name is Timo Aytaç Güzelmansur. He was born in 1977 in Antakya, ancient Antioch, where – according to the Acts of the Apostles – the followers of Jesus of Nazareth were called Christians for the first time.

After his conversion and baptism, he studied theology from 2000 to 2005 in Germany, in Augsburg, and then in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He received a doctorate from the Hochschule Sankt Georgen of Frankfurt, the same faculty of theology where the young Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio intended to complete his studies.

His “mentor” was another Jesuit, Christoph Tröll, a great expert on Islam, highly appreciated for this expertise by the German episcopal conference and by Joseph Ratzinger himself, who in 2005, soon after he was elected pope, called him to introduce at Castel Gandolfo the annual session of studies with his former theology students.

The interview is reproduced further below. In it Timo Aytaç Güzelmansur does not deny the “danger” of conversion in a country like Turkey and therefore all the more so in even more intolerant Muslim countries.

But he emphasizes how conversions are not lacking, including for a reason very similar to his own: the discovery that “Jesus has loved us to the point of giving himself for us on the cross.”

It is a reason that has also motivated other converts interviewed by Fazzini, as demonstrated by the conversations published by “Avvenire” beginning last July 15.

In order:

1. PETER HITCHENS – Brother of the more famous Christopher – who with Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett makes up the triad of the “new atheism” – he also comes from a radical aversion to all religious faith. He was a Trotskyite and afterward an ardent supporter of communism of the strict Soviet observance. He converted to Christianity as an adult, prompted by a reflection on a painting by Rogier van der Weyden that depicts the universal judgment.

2. PATRICK KÉCHICHIAN – From the Paris of Jacques Lacan and the psychoanalysis of Christ of Péguy and Claudel. Passing through the pages of “Le Monde,” the French newspaper of “laicité.” The conversion of Patrick Kéchichian, a literary critic and writer, found in the love of the Nazarene – through the pages of Kierkegaard – the answers to the questions that were troubling him inside.

3. TATIANA GORITCHEVA – A Russian theologian and activist, she chose the Gospel, accepting prison and exile in order to reject the “diabolical ideology” of Marxism that wanted to change man by refusing all openness to heaven. Today she lives in Paris, where she warns the hedonist West against another golden calf, the unbridled consumerism that annihilates the spiritual yearning of the person. Continue reading


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