The funeral of King Fahd, which was conducted in a simple manner in Riyadh earlier this month (1995), has encouraged a well-known Christian priest in Italy to embrace Islam, press reports said.
The priest, who watched the late king's funeral on satellite television, was impressed by the lack of pomp and pageantry in the royal funeral, Al-Riyadh Arabic daily reported without mentioning his name.
King Fahd was buried in Al-Oud graveyard the next day of his death after a solemn funeral ceremony attended by world leaders.
Islamic preacher Dr. Abdullah Al-Malik said the simple funeral of the king had a dramatic effect on the priest's mind, which led him to Islam.
"Although he had read several Islamic books before, they didn't have the same impact."
This is the second high-profile reversion to Islam by an Italian involving Saudi Arabia. Four years ago, Italian Ambassador to Riyadh Torquato Cardilli embraced Islam.
"The priest watched the funeral of King Fahd and another person on television and did not find any difference," Malik said. "There was only a single funeral prayer for the two and both were buried in similar graves. This great example of equality influenced the priest and prompted him to embrace Islam," Malik said.
Muslim preachers in Italy had given the priest Islamic books and cassettes in the past 15 years, but what moved him was the simplicity of the royal funeral.
"I had read several Islamic books and heard many Islamic cassettes over the past years, they never moved me. But the simple royal funeral shook me and changed my mind," Malik quoted the priest as saying.
He said he believed the king's funeral would change the mind of many others. He urged Muslim media to focus on stories related to Islam's tolerance and equality in order to attract more people to the religion.
"I will work the rest of my life for the propagation of Islam," the 62-year-old former priest said.
Badr Al-Olayan, director of the Islamic Education Foundation in Jeddah, said the priest's reversion to Islam was "very good news." He narrated the story of another Italian who came to IEF office to embrace Islam after being impressed by the large and orderly congregation of Muslims at the Grand Mosque in Makkah to perform prayers.
"How can you assemble such a large number of people by just making a call. It's impossible. Only God can do that," he quoted the Italian as saying.
Olayan urged Muslims to do more in order to take the message of Islam to other people.
Ambassador Cardilli, 60, embraced Islam on Nov. 15, 2001.
"I am fully convinced of the truth of Islam through my regular reading of God's final revelation, the Holy Qur'an," Cardilli was quoted as saying at the time.