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Chapter 1
Overview of the “Pearl of the East”
WAS ON PILGRIMAGE for the Fatima Family Apos-
tolate—literally flying around the world for speaking
engagements and research. I left by way of the Pacific from
the United States and was scheduled to return from the east by way of
the Atlantic. My purpose was to foster Christian love and unity for the
family. I hoped to do research on reported heavenly interventions in the
Middle East for unity of Christians throughout the world.
I had learned to some degree before departure from mid-America
of reported heavenly interventions in the Muslim country of Syria
where the number of Christians is relatively small. I had heard of an
ideal Christian community known as “Soufanieh” formed in recent
decades in Damascus, the oldest city in the world. Messages from
heaven were reported being given within the context of family life, in
a house close to the site of the conversion and baptism of St. Paul the
Apostle.
Jesus and Mary were reportedly giving messages, apparitions, ecsta-
sies. Olive oil and the stigmata were reported to be outward signs of the
presence of the Holy Spirit in all this. There was the stigmata whenever
the Orthodox and Catholics celebrated Holy Week and Easter at the
same time.
The word “Soufanieh” is the name of an old quarter of old Damas-
cus. It is a simple and quiet quarter where Christians live but it became
famous after the reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary and the Icon
there which began to exude oil. This occasioned people to begin calling
the Icon “Our Lady of Soufanieh.” And the very house, home to the
Nazzours, began to be called the Virgin House.
It had been suggested that I go to the Mideast, research, and then
write a book myself on the unusual phenomena taking place in Damas-
cus, Syria. I never considered seriously for one second going to Syria.
Then circumstances developed that made it seem I was supposed to go
to Damascus.
I had been told that in Damascus there was a home known as the
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Virgin’s house of Soufanieh. There its inhabitants and neighbors were
filled with the spirit of the Gospel and the spirit of the early Christians.
It was my conviction I could not write such a book without meeting
first-hand the people involved. I had known for about ten years that the
mission of Soufanieh concerned Christian Unity. Later I was to discov-
er it concerned also unity and love within each family.
On September 11, 2001, I left Australia after many speaking en-
gagements there in different states. On Northwest airlines I flew to the
Middle East by way of Singapore, then Bahrain, enroute to Damascus,
Syria. I had no idea what was ahead of me. I did not know that the his-
tory of terrorism, relative to New York’s World Trade Center and the
Pentagon in Washington, D.C., as well as the plane crash resulting from
the same forces in Pennsylvania, was being made while I was on that
flight to Damascus.
I was enroute to do research on an ideal Christian community of
faith and love at the same time when violent acts, destructive of thou-
sands of human lives and property, were being perpetrated in my coun-
try. Rooted in the hatred of Muslim extremists, violence was transpiring
within the United States which would forever be remembered in history.
I was traveling to the very area made famous by the conversion of
St. Paul (Acts of the Apostles 9:3-6). My goal was Soufanieh in
Damascus. I was going to the neighborhood of Soufanieh in Damascus
to do research on a movement that reportedly originated with heavenly
interventions. The purposes of the heavenly messages were to develop
families into domestic churches and to reunite Christians of the world
into “one fold and one shepherd.”
Australia is 16 hours ahead of my midwestern time. Syria is nine
hours ahead. So leaving Australia in the evening of September 11, the
time frame in New York was quite different from my location in another
part of the world.
In Australia, on behalf of the Fatima Family Apostolate, I had spoken
in Melbourne, Brisbane. A favorite spot was Canungra (Marian Valley),
Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians, who is the patron of Australia.
There also is the Grotto of Our Lady of Fatima. I had spoken in Sydney,
Albury, South Wagga and visited the Seminary of St. John Vianney in
Wagga Wagga. I had talked to school children, young adults and parents
and was most happy at the interest and reception in Australia. There the
Immaculate Heart Messenger of which I am editor is distributed, being
printed in the Philippines as well as in the United States.
It’s a long way from Australia to Syria. Having left America Sep-
tember 4, from Los Angeles, flying west over the Pacific Ocean to the
continent known as “down under,” I wondered how I ever got myself
into such encounters. I would return to America over the Atlantic, fly-
ing from Syria to London to Chicago, and finally back to Sioux Falls,
South Dakota, where my bishop resides for this midwestern diocese.
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
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Thus I would fly entirely around the world.
I don’t think I would ever have ventured on an around the world pil-
grimage had it not been for Pope John Paul II making his pilgrimage in
May 2001, walking in the footsteps of St. Paul, the apostle. By Eternal
Word Television Network (EWTN) I had followed the pilgrimage of
Pope John Paul II in May, 2001 almost step by step.
Our Lady of Soufanieh and the unusual phenomena with messages
received by Myrna Nazzour for Church unity, had been featured in the
Immaculate Heart Messenger magazine about ten years previously. But
then, because of complications with the movement in the United States
at the time, I set it all aside. Through all the years, however, I kept a
large replica of the Virgin of Soufanieh clearly visible in my bedroom.
The Virgin’s penetrating eyes would meet mine occasionally.
When the Pope was in Damascus, suddenly the recollection came to
me of the small replica Icon of Soufanieh I had put away in the attic of
my rectory ten years previously, while retaining the large one in my liv-
ing quarters. As I watched the Pope on television in Damascus, I won-
dered if Myrna Nazzour might encounter His Holiness, Pope John Paul
II there. Then the curious thought occurred to me to go to the attic of
the rectory, a somewhat difficult feat, and rescue the small Soufanieh
Icon placed there years ago. As soon as I came down and returned to the
office, the phone was ringing. I was asked to phone a long distance num-
ber immediately. I did. Nicolas Nazzour at Soufanieh in Damascus,
Syria, answered immediately, saying, “Oh! Fr. Fox. Fatima Family
Apostolate.” I was amazed. “You remember me? It’s been ten years.”
“Yes. I remember you. Here is Myrna.” Myrna then came to the phone.
“Fr. Fox, come to our home. Visit Soufanieh.”
I returned to watching His Holiness John Paul II on his pilgrimage
in the “footsteps of St. Paul” to Damascus. The two incidents coming
together was enough for me to conclude: “I must go to Damascus, Syria.
I must spend time there to gather information to write a book on
Soufanieh.”
I choose then, months in advance, the day of September 11, 2001.
Then I would fly to Syria from Australia. While at Soufanieh I would
be able to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass daily before the miraculous
little Icon which had exuded olive oil from time to time since 1982,
including Holy Week of 2001.
Mary Kourbet Al-Akhras, is known today as Myrna. She was born
in 1964 of a Greek-Catholic father and a Greek-Orthodox mother. She
studied in Christian schools, either Catholic or Orthodox but also in
government schools. Myrna was considered to be average in studies. She
left school a year before earning the unified Syrian baccalaureate diplo-
ma. Her religious knowledge before the phenomena of Soufanieh devel-
oped was considered elementary. Such is the simple background of the
woman today known as Myrna Nazzour whom God will use in the
Ch. 1. Overview of the “Pearl of the East”
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events of Soufanieh. God chooses who he wills. He gives his grace and
gifts to whom he wills.
In offering the Sacrifice of the Mass at Soufanieh, I would use
Myrna’s chalice which was used by Pope John Paul II in Damascus. She
had loaned her chalice, along with many others loaned for the papal
Mass, as people would receive the precious Blood of Jesus along with the
sacred Body of the Lord at the papal Mass under both species. Eastern
rite Catholics are accustomed to receiving regularly under both species.
Myrna keeps a chalice in her home, where the Sacrifice of the Mass
is offered, at least every Saturday evening. The Mass has been offered
there by past papal nuncios, and at least weekly by local priests. While
there were many chalices on the altar during the papal Mass, the Pope
chose Myrna’s to be front and center so as to be used for the elevation.
Damascus is considered the oldest city in the world. In the vicinity
of Damascus there are inhabitants of the Maaloula village where to the
present day the Aramaic language, which was spoken by Jesus Christ, is
still spoken. I was going to the area of the roots of early Christianity,
mostly Muslim now. Damascus is also home to the Omayyad Mosque,
the mausoleum of St. John the Baptist, visited by Pope John Paul II in
May, 2001 when he made his famous pilgrimage, following in the foot-
steps of St. Paul, the apostle. I would visit the same mosque and see
Muslims praying, or sleeping, there in its vast open area.
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
Omayyad Mosque, Damascus, shrine of the head of St. John the Baptist. Pope
John Paul II paid his respects here in May, 2001.
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(Top) Chapel of St. Ananias, where St. Paul was baptized. (Center) St. Paul
Church, Damascus. (Bottom) Tomb of the Head of John the Baptist, inside the
Omayyad Mosque, Damascus.
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Why would I want to visit Damascus in Syria, a land of Muslims
where Christians are comparatively few, and among the Christians,
Orthodox outnumber the Catholics? Well, I was convinced that God
was working in the area, which was the cradle of early Christianity. I was
convinced heaven is again calling the world from the East to unity in
Jesus Christ. After 2000 years, God is manifesting Himself and His
Mother in a special way for family life and Christian unity.
By whatever title we give Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, we are
speaking of the same Woman who is Mother of God and Mother of the
Church. Be it Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Miraculous Medal, Lourdes,
Fatima, Soufanieh, etc., it is the same Mother of the Incarnate Word of
whom we speak and venerate. The universal Catechism, which quotes the
Second Vatican Council, says:
“This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninter-
ruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation
and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the
eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay
aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to
bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin
is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Bene-
factress, and Mediatrix.” (969)
The Catechism quotes Scripture and the Council in saying, “All gen-
erations will call me blessed”; “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed
Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.” Those are strong words: “The
Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian wor-
ship.” While it distinguishes “the adoration which is given to the
Incarnate Word” to the Blessed Trinity—nonetheless, recognizing that
mankind, the Church, would not have the Word made Flesh without
the cooperation of Mary in carrying out the divine liturgy, the worship
of the Church which consists of the acts of Jesus Christ extended in time
and space—there must intrinsically flow from this devotion to Mary.
And devotion to Mary must lead us to Jesus Christ.
In adoring the Word made Flesh we must honor with the highest
honor, called hyperdulia, she by whom, through the action of the Holy
Spirit, the Word was made Flesh and dwells among us.
The Catechism tells us how to express devotion to the Virgin Mother
Mary. It is through liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and
Marian prayer, such as the Rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel.”
We shall see in the early events of Soufanieh, the first time the Blessed
Mother gives a message (second apparition), the Rosary is instrumental
in pointing to Jesus Christ.
The Church through its Ecumenical Council of Vatican II tells us
that Mary is the Mother and Model of the Church. She was the first
disciple of Jesus Christ. She is the Woman of Faith—the Woman of
obedient Faith of the New Covenant as Abraham was the man of faith
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of the Old Covenant. This brings us to understand just what is meant
by that devotion God wants established in the world—which is intrin-
sic, an essential part of our faith and its practice.
Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in a final analysis, after
invoking her intercession and honoring her in the greatest way, next to
Jesus Christ means: having a faith, like Mary had; loving God and neigh-
bor as Mary did; practicing all the Christian virtues as Mary did. We are
going to see in our study of Soufanieh it is a call to love and unity, both
for individual families and the family of Christians, worldwide.
The universal Catechism spelled out that devotion to our Blessed
Mother is found in the celebration of liturgical Marian Feasts and pray-
ing the Rosary which is, the Church says, a Gospel prayer when prayed
properly.
I once wrote a booklet, First Saturdays—For the Triumph of the
Immaculate Heart. In it you will discover the profundity of meaning
behind First Saturdays. And this may astonish you. First Saturdays con-
cern also Christian Unity—and in a special way the reunion of the
Orthodox Christians with the Roman Catholic Church. First Saturdays
concern prayer and reparation for reunion of Catholics and Orthodox—
union with the Pope—such as all enjoyed during the first 1000 years of
Christianity.
C
What is the Orthodox Church? It is a group of Eastern churches of
the Byzantine tradition that were in full communion with Rome during
the first millennium, and which all recognize the Patriarch of Constan-
tinople as the first Orthodox bishop. The division between the Catholic
Church and the Orthodox is often symbolized by the mutual excom-
munications of 1054. Still the Catholic Church considers itself to be in
almost full communion with the Orthodox Churches. The Second
Vatican Council said they “are still joined to us in closest intimacy” in
various ways, especially in the priesthood and the Eucharist.
The Orthodox Churches recognize the first seven ecumenical coun-
cils as normative for their faith, along with the Sacred Scriptures and
other local councils that took place in later centuries.
The Orthodox Churches are organized in 15 autocephalous (inde-
pendent) churches that correspond in most cases to nations or ethnic
groups. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (modern Istanbul)
has a primacy of honor among the patriarchs, but his actual jurisdiction
is limited to his own patriarchate. As spiritual head of worldwide
Orthodoxy, he serves as a point of unity, and has the right to call Pan-
Orthodox assemblies.
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The Autocephalous Orthodox Church
The Patriarchate of Constantinople (Ecumenical Patriarchate), has
jurisdiction in Turkey, Crete, the Dodecanese, and Greeks in the
rest of the world outside Greece and Africa. Autonomous church-
es linked to the Ecumenical Patriarchate exist in Finland and
Estonia. Several other jurisdictions of various ethnicities in the
Diaspora are also directly under the Patriarchate.
Patriarchate of Alexandria, with jurisdiction in Egypt and the rest of
Africa. It includes a native African Orthodox Church in Kenya
and Uganda.
Patriarchate of Antioch, with jurisdiction in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq,
Australia, the Americas.
Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with jurisdiction in Israel and Jordan. The
autonomous church of Mount Sinai is linked to the Jerusalem
Patriarchate.
Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarchate of Moscow with jurisdic-
tion over most of the former Soviet Union. Autonomous churches
in Japan and China are linked to the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Serbian Orthodox Church, a patriarchate with jurisdiction in
Yugoslavia, Western Europe, North America and Australia.
The Romanian Orthodox Church, a patriarchate with jurisdiction in
Romania, Western Europe and North America.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, a patriarchate with jurisdiction in
Bulgaria, Romania, Western Europe and North America.
The Georgian Orthodox Church, a patriarchate with jurisdiction in the
republic of Georgia.
The Orthodox Church of Cyprus, an archbishopric with jurisdiction in
Cyprus.
The Orthodox Church of Greece, an archbishopric with jurisdiction in
Greece.
The Orthodox Church of Poland a metropolitanate with jurisdiction in
Poland.
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The Orthodox Church of Albania, an archbishopric with jurisdiction in
Albania.
The Orthodox Church in Czech and Slovak Republics, a metropoli-
tanate with jurisdiction in Czech and Slovak Republics. Its auto-
cephalous status was granted by Moscow in 1951; Constantinople
recognizes it only as an autonomous church.
The Orthodox Church in America, a metropolitanate with jurisdiction
in North America and a few parishes in Latin America and
Australia. Its autocephalous status was granted by Moscow in
1970; Constantinople and most other Orthodox Churches have
not recognized this.
The Second Vatican Council, in Orientalium Ecclesiarum, the
Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches, pointed out the special role they
have to play “in promoting the unity of all Christians.” The document
stated in part as follows:
“The Eastern Churches in communion with the Apostolic See of
Rome have a special role to play in promoting the unity of all Christians,
particularly Easterners, according to the principles of this sacred Synod’s
Decree on Ecumenism first of all by prayer, then by the example of their
lives, by religious fidelity to ancient Eastern traditions, by greater mutu-
al knowledge, by collaboration, and by a brotherly regard for objects and
attitudes (No. 24).
“If any separated Eastern Christian should, under the guidance of
grace of the Holy Spirit, join himself to Catholic unity, no more
should be required of him than what a simple profession of the
Catholic faith demands. A valid priesthood is preserved among
Eastern clerics. Hence, upon joining themselves to the unity of the
Catholic Church, Eastern clerics are permitted to exercise the orders
they possess, in accordance with the regulations established by the
competent authority. (No. 25)”
The Division of Archives and Statistics of the Eastern Orthodox
World Foundation in a 1970 estimate reported more than 200 million
Orthodox Church members throughout the world. A contemporary
estimate puts the number to about 220 million while many Orthodox
today claim a total membership of about 300 million.
C
Bridging a Thousand Years
Pope John Paul II, from the beginning of his pontificate, has
always worked for Christian unity as visible head of the Catholic
Church. He sees himself, the Slavic Pope from Poland, as given the
Ch. 1. Overview of the “Pearl of the East”
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mission to unite East and West.
May 5-9, 2001, Pope John Paul II did something for Christian
Unity that has not been accomplished in 1000 years: going for the first
time into Greece, as part of a pilgrimage which retraced the steps of the
Apostle Paul. It was really the Pope’s final action of the Holy Year 2000
Jubilee, closing that year of grace “in the footsteps of St. Paul.”
Pope John Paul II became the first pope in history to enter an
Islamic mosque, the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus. That mosque is
special for Christians because it has a shrine to St. John the Baptist. In
early Christian history, it was the site of a Christian basilica dedicated to
St. John the Baptist, whose head was allegedly kept here
. Muslims took over the basilica in the 8th century and converted it into
a mosque, yet, they kept the monument to the Baptist who is venerated
by both Christians and Muslims. The Pope’s goal was not the mosque
but the Baptist’s monument. Still, he was met in the mosque on May 6,
2001, by Sheikh Ahmed Kaftaro, Grand Mufti of the Republic, who is
Syria’s highest Muslim authority.
The Pope’s gesture toward Muslims was timely, for just four months
later (on September 11) Muslim extremists would attack the United
States and endanger worldwide Muslim-Christian conflicts if both sides
did not respond properly with calmness and wider vision.
The Pope has made many pleas for an end to violence and for peace
in the Middle East. Muslims throughout the world had been moved by
the Pope’s stop at the Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the Autonomous
Palestinian Territories on his Holy Land pilgrimage on March 22, 2000.
He upheld the Palestinian right to their own homeland.
Any Greek Orthodox overtures to the Vatican would likely encour-
age other Orthodox Churches to follow.
The largest Orthodox Christian group in the world is in Russia.
And we know that both the Pope and Russia were very much in the
message of Our Lady of Fatima when she appeared to three little chil-
dren in 1917, Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia.
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Catholic, Orthodox and Protestants. How do they differ?
For the first thousand years of Christianity the Orthodox were one
with the Roman Catholic Church. They recognized the pope as the
chief head for unity in the faith. Ancient writers, fathers of the Church
of the first six centuries or so, always gave special recognition of author-
ity to the bishop of Rome, the chief vicar of Jesus Christ, whether these
writers were Christians of the East or West.
Then, with geographic separation of many miles, lacking the com-
munications instantly available today, and the switch of the emperor
from the West to the East, grave misunderstandings led to Christians of
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the East, once in union with the pope, discontinuing to look to him as
their visible head as all Christians had for a thousand years.
When in 1054 the separation of the Orthodox took place, they kept
their validly ordained bishops, who could trace their powers of ordina-
tion in an unbroken line back to the first apostles—just as Roman
Catholic bishops could do. The Twelve Apostles ordained by Jesus
Christ Himself are the origin of the fullness of the priesthood. We call
them bishops, given by Jesus Christ to certain men.
Unlike the Orthodox of the East, who kept their bishops and the
seven sacraments along with all the basic doctrines of the faith, the
Protestant rebels in the 16th century were quite different. Martin Luther
denied the special powers of bishops and therefore of priests. Protes-
tantism dropped the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Thus—and we are
most sorry—our separated brethren in Protestant churches no longer
have validly ordained bishops or priests. For them the apostolic chain,
that is, apostolic succession has been broken. What does this mean?
Without the true priesthood of Jesus Christ, Protestantism does not
have a true Eucharist. The Real Presence of Jesus Christ is not present
in their Communion service. Their ministers have lost the power to
change bread and wine into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Their Communion remains bread and
wine, purely and only symbolic of Jesus. Many Protestant bodies claim
no more then symbolism for the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper.
Regardless of what they might claim, the Apostolic succession is just not
there to effect a valid Eucharist.
In both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches with a
valid priesthood, the bread and wine are changed into the very living
Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Catholic
Church uses the word “transubstantiation” to express its faith. Tran-
substantiation is defined thus: “The way Christ is made present in this
sacrament (Holy Eucharist) is none other than by the change of the
whole substance of the bread into his Body, and of the whole substance
of the wine into his Blood (in the Consecration of the Mass) this unique
and wonderful change the Catholic Church rightly calls transubstantia-
tion” (Encyclical, Mysterium Fidei, of Paul VI, September 3, 1965).
The faith of the Catholic Church concerning the Holy Eucharist is
even more than the Real Presence of Jesus in his Body, Blood, Soul and
Divinity. Every time a validly ordained priest consecrates bread and wine
at Mass, the Sacrifice of Jesus’ death on the Cross is perpetuated. To par-
ticipate in the Mass is to be present at the same Sacrifice of the Cross
offered on Mt. Calvary on the first Good Friday afternoon 2000 years
ago. The Sacrifice is the same; only the manner of offering it is different.
The Angel at Fatima in 1916 gave the three little shepherd children
Holy Communion. The Angel came in the form of a young man, trans-
parent and much brighter than crystal pierced by the rays of the sun. He
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held in his hands a chalice surmounted by a Host, from which some
drops of blood were falling into the chalice. Leaving the chalice and the
Host suspended in the air, he prostrated himself on the ground and
repeated this prayer three times:
“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You
profoundly. I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divin-
ity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in repara-
tion for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offend-
ed. Through the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the
Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”
The Angel at Fatima is telling us that Holy Communion is really
and truly the Body and Blood of our loving Lord Jesus Christ whom we
receive in Holy Communion. Jesus is alive in the Holy Eucharist. The
Host shedding blood reminds that the Eucharist is also the Sacrifice of
Jesus on the Cross perpetuated. Fatima reaffirms what the Bible and the
Church teaches.
Orthodox bishops who have traveled to Fatima have said that the
manner of the Angel’s prostrating before the Most Blessed Sacrament is
the same Orthodox bodily position of adoration before the sacramental
presence of Jesus Christ. Since the Holy Eucharist is central and so
essential to the authentic Christian life in living the full gospel, the on-
going and developing message of Soufanieh as of November 26, 2001,
introduced explicitly the Holy Eucharist. “I am giving you my Body and
my Blood as a proof of my fidelity and love. Receive from me this sacra-
ment with trust and faith, because this sacrament comforts you, provides
you with strength and wisdom and increases you in grace. . . .”
If the Eucharist was not mentioned explicitly in words earlier in the
messages of Soufanieh, the sacrificial note was surely there. As early as
October 28, 1983, Myrna speaks of the sensations of being pierced by a
sharp and pointed object in the palms of her hands. The following
November blood appears on her hands, feet and side. It was the begin-
ning of what would be even more pronounced stigmata in the following
years. The Eucharist is the same Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.
The truth of the Eucharist as the Sacrifice of Christ and his Church
is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church from which the
quotations below are taken:
¶1367 “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are
one single sacrifice: The victim is one and the same: the same now offers
through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross,
only the manner of offering is different. And since in this divine sacri-
fice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered him-
self once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and
offered in an unbloody manner . . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”
¶1368 “The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church
which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head.
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With him, she herself is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to
his intercession with the Father for all men. In the Eucharist the sacri-
fice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The
lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work are united
with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new
value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all gen-
erations of Christians to be united with his offering.
“In the catacombs the Church is often represented as a woman in
prayer, arms outstretched in the praying position. Like Christ who
stretched out his arms on the cross, through him, with him, and in him,
she offers herself and intercedes for all men.”
As a baptized member of the Church, Myrna, while not empowered
with the Priesthood of Holy Orders, bears witness in her body to the
members of the Church joined to the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross and
perpetuated at the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Our divine Lord spoke explicitly to Myrna about his Body and
Blood in the Holy Eucharist; “through the Sacraments I unite myself to
you.”
At the same time that Jesus gave his message of the Eucharist he
said, “But the whole is incomplete without your unity at the altar.” This
is obviously reference to the lack of perfect unity among Christians, even
among Orthodox and Catholics. Orthodox and Catholic priests may not
concelebrate at the same altar although both have the same Holy
Eucharist.
The Act of Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
was something many Orthodox bishops joined the Pope, together with
Catholic bishops, in doing on March 25, 1984. The Consecration and
First Saturdays are part of one entity requested as Our Lady revealed July
13, 1917, when she said Russia would eventually be converted. Catholics
the world over need to continue making the First Saturdays for the con-
version of Russia, and hopefully for a total reunion of East and West in
the one Church of Jesus Christ.
The Orthodox who separated from unity with the pope, as we have
said, kept a valid priesthood. The main thing from the Catholic per-
spective is to recognize that the pope, as the successor of St. Peter, is the
rock of authority and faith for the universal Church. If Orthodox
accepted the position of the pope from the Catholic perspective, they
would then totally be one with the holy universal Church with the pope
as visible head, and Jesus as invisible head. They already have Jesus in the
Holy Eucharist. They have the Sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated in
their divine liturgies. They have the other sacraments Jesus Christ gave
his Church. Pope John Paul II, with a view to reunion, has invited con-
sideration of how the Petrine primacy might be exercised in harmony
with Orthodox traditions.
Jesus said to St. Peter: “You are Peter [petros=“Rock”] and upon this
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Rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will never prevail
against it.” The pope is the successor of St. Peter. This Holy Father, Pope
John Paul “the Great,” was in Greece in May, 2001. He went to Ukraine
in June, 2001, working to reunite the Orthodox and Roman Catholics.
He took some striking risks. On April 7, 2001, he sent a letter to the
leader of Ukraine’s largest Orthodox Church, the same leader who pub-
licly asked the Pope not to visit his country in June. The letter was deliv-
ered to Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev by Cardinal Roberto Tucci, chief
organizer of papal trips.
Vladimir is head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is in
communion with the Russian Orthodox Church. Ukraine has two small
Orthodox communities which were not opposed to the papal visit
scheduled for June 23-27, 2001. Vladimir had taken the position that if
the Pope met with other Orthodox communities in Ukraine, communi-
ties his Church considers to be in schism, it could mark the end of
Catholic-Orthodox relations.
The Pope went and the people, both Catholic and Orthodox, and
the faithful from other confessions, felt the spiritual warmth of the mes-
sage, words and gestures, of the Pope as he came to the East. Ukraine
was the fourth Orthodox country that he visited after Romania,
Georgia, and Greece. In none of these countries did the Holy Father
make a move against the desires of the Orthodox. The Pope worked to
open doors and to keep them open. It remained for Christians to help
leaders out of their stalemate, which is often very delicate and compli-
cated. In various parts of the East, Orthodox have responded to the
attempts of the Catholic Church by accusing it of “proselytizing” their
faithful. At the same time the Catholic Church claimed that it had good
will in working for Christian Unity.
Pope John Paul II, described as “the most Marian Pope in histo-
ry,” entrusted his pontificate and his life to the Blessed Virgin Mother
of God, and the risks he takes seem repeatedly to work out for better
relations.
Damascus, where Pope John Paul II went in May, 2001, is home to
Myrna Nazzour, an eastern-rite Melkite Catholic. She is a special mes-
senger for Our Lady and Jesus regarding Christian Unity. Her husband
Nicolas is Orthodox. The mission given her by our Lady has had the
favor and recognition in Damascus of both the Catholic and Orthodox
hierarchy.
I communicated years ago with the former papal nuncio of Syria
who verified it. I heard from the Greek Melkite Catholic Metropolitan
of that area giving approval for Myrna to come to the Fatima Family
Apostolate Congress with also the approval of my bishop in 1993, but I
decided to await on this.
Syria is an Arab socialist republic in southwest Asia with its capital,
Damascus. Christian communities were formed in apostolic times when
14
Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
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many came to the Christian faith in the area. It is believed that St. Peter
established a See at Antioch before going to Rome. Damascus became
a center of influence. The area was thus known for great men and great
events in the early history of the Church.
Monasticism developed in Syria in the fourth century. So did the
Monophysite and Monotheist heresies to which a portion of the Church
succumbed. Byzantine Syrians who remained in communion with
Rome were given the name Melkite Catholics. Christians of various
persuasions—Jacobites, Orthodox and Melkites—were subjected to var-
ious degrees of harassment from the Arabs who took over in 638 and
from the Ottoman Turks who isolated the country and remained in con-
trol from 1516 to the end of World War II.
Damascus, the world’s oldest inhabited city, has given the Catholic
Church six popes as well as saints and priests over the centuries. Pope
John Paul II acknowledged its ancient role in the history of Christianity,
when there, calling it the “Pearl of the East.”
Myrna’s experiences involve the Icon of Our Lady of Soufanieh
which on special occasions exudes olive oil. About 1990, Our Lady
revealed to Myrna that she would not have the stigmata again until the
Orthodox Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church of the
West celebrated Easter at the same time. Easter in 2001 fell at the same
time for both Orthodox and Catholics, the East and the West.
On Saturday, May 5, 2001, I talked by phone to Myrna and her
husband Nicolas in Damascus. They told me that on Holy Thursday,
April, 2001, the stigmata returned. On Holy Saturday, April 14, at 2
a.m., the Icon of Our Lady of Soufanieh for Christian Unity again
shed olive oil.
C
To appreciate what has just been written I will review here in brief
Soufanieh from the beginning for those who still have no acquaintance.
Myrna, Melkite Catholic, was an 18-year-old beautiful young woman,
who had recently married Nicolas Nazzour, an Orthodox Christian.
They went to Rome for their honeymoon. Their plans for a quiet fami-
ly life were soon to be interrupted.
It was a Monday, November 22, 1982. Myrna accompanied Alice,
her mother-in-law, to the bedside of Leila, Nicolas’s sister, who was
bedridden with pains which made her scream. Various women were
present, including relatives, neighbors and Marie-Rose, Leila’s eldest
sister. Marie-Rose, seeing the seriousness of the situation, suggested that
all present pray for the sick person.
Myrna continues this story saying:
“Suddenly I felt a strange, indescribable thing, all my body shivered,
as if a force had come out of me. A young Muslim woman named
Mayada Kazaly shouted: ‘Myrna, what’s on your hands?’ Oil was oozing
from my hands.”
Ch. 1. Overview of the “Pearl of the East”
15
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While Myrna almost fainted, others present spontaneously shouted:
“Oh! Virgin, help us.”
Myrna then rubbed the painful places on Leila’s body with her oil-
filled hands. Immediately the pain stopped for Leila. Later when
Nicolas arrived, he could not help but notice the paleness on Myrna’s
face and worried about her condition. When Marie-Rose related what
they had just been through, Nicolas exploded with laughter and mock-
ingly said to his new wife: “Maybe you ate too much ‘labne’ (macerated
eggplants) and oil has dripped on your hands?”
“Brother, don’t blaspheme” responded his sister Maria-Rose. Nicolas
departed, promising to come back later to pick up his wife. Then Leila’s
husband Farid arrived and found his wife smiling and busy at domestic
chores. “Thank God, you look better” is how he greeted her. All agreed.
That evening Myrna was praying again, this time in the presence of
Farid and Nicolas after Myrna had washed her hands carefully and dried
them. Now at prayer Myrna’s hands filled with oil again. This convinced
Farid and Nicolas that they were facing a supernatural phenomenon.
They agreed with their wives that this oil was a “sign from God.”
As Myrna and Nicolas were on their way home they kept asking
themselves: “Why would we have been chosen by God?” When others
afterwards asked them if they were saints they laughed joyfully. They
were not particularly religious, just going to church when necessary.
Myrna would explain it this way, even to the priest, Fr. Elias
Zahlaoui:
“Don’t delude yourself, Abouna [Arabic for “Father”]. I am 18-
years-old. I got married six months ago. All I know about prayer is the
‘Lord’s Prayer’ and the ‘Hail Mary.’ I know how to make the Sign of the
Cross and sometimes go on Wednesdays to the Confraternity of the
Virgin with my mother-in-law at the Church of the Holy Cross to
attend the service. . . .”
We are describing here the beginnings of a supernatural phenome-
na that will reach around the world. We are living at a time when
mankind is turning away from God. The young often disregard the
Truth because they cannot see it, do not learn it properly, are not taught
it properly, and often get lost in the ever-increasing number of religious
sects and cheap unbalanced spiritualities. We live in a time when even
many among their elders have sold themselves for money and pleasure
and whose examples have betrayed the Truth. We live in times when
evil, Satan and his helpers, are hard at work to divide families, divide
people of the Church, divide religious communities from each other, to
take away love and unity, and grasp souls.
Myrna and Nicolas more and more soon came to realize: “God is
maybe asking something from us.”
Myrna prayed as follows:
“My God, what is this oil? I know that it is of divine strength, but
16
Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
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why have you chosen me, so weak, whereas thousands deserve this grace
more than I do? In spite of everything, Your will be done. Now, I offer
you my actions, my fatigues, my pains, my sufferings and my joys, so that
nothing interferes in my veneration for You. O God, I put in You all my
hope, because I fear my weakness. Steer me away from any action that
You do not want. . . .”
The months ahead would be difficult for Myrna, Nicolas too. Thank
God, Nicolas is 20 years older than Myrna and with a certain maturity,
which he already has by some experience in life, and in which he would
now grow, the two would adapt. But first, and perhaps through their
entire lives, there would be anguish, then some serenity; again doubt,
then reassurement; then pain and finally joy. The cross of the mission
laid on their family would remain for years, doubtlessly until their
deaths. They are on a road leading to faith and deepened love, and this
with a mission that would touch millions of individuals and thousands
upon thousands of families throughout the entire world.
As the author of the book writes, it has been in the goodness of God
for him to have worked and shared with various mystics who have had
a certain favor, however quietly, of their bishops. I am aware of the dia-
bolic attacks that come to these individuals whom God uses in a special
way to bring others to holiness. I am aware of the loneliness they expe-
rience even as the world wants to meet them and take their time and dis-
turb their privacy and even their prayer-life, if not protected by God and
His holy Mother and the good holy angels, especially St. Michael the
Archangel as well as their Guardian Angels.
Myrna’s mother on November 25, 1982, having learned of Leila’s
sudden healing, gave a little appeal to her daughter that she too was suf-
fering very much in her spinal column and
asked for her prayers. Myrna then prayed
in the presence of the family, while holding
a wad of dry cotton in her hand. Oil
appeared on Myrna’s hands and dampened
the cotton which was applied on her
mother’s back. The pains of her mother
ceased immediately.
The next day the entire family accept-
ed Nicolas’s suggestion that all of the fam-
ily observe a day of fast and prayerful
thanksgiving in order to give gratitude to
God for the oil. This was welcomed by the
family.
It was November 27, that same year, as
Myrna was doing housework that she
noticed the two icons of Our Lady and the
Christ Child, enclosed in cheap plastic
Ch. 1. Overview of the “Pearl of the East”
17
The miraculous small Icon,
which often exudes oil, is seen
enclosed in a glass globe in the
Virgin’s House.
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ivory frames, which Nicolas had brought back from Sofia, Bulgaria. The
first one, in wood, was very beautiful and replicates an icon of the 15th
century as far as was known. The second icon was one of ten small
reproductions Nicolas had bought in Sofia. Myrna noticed the latter was
very shiny. She took it into her hands and noticed that drops of oil were
forming on the glass cover protecting the reproduction.
Myrna ran to her husband. Surprised and trembling, Nicolas took
the small icon from Myrna and placed it on a little decorative plate so
that the oil would not fall on the floor. The plate quickly filled with oil
to its extremities. Then a large silvery tray was used. They knelt down
not knowing what to do.
They asked themselves: “How can oil flow so abundantly out of a
picture printed on plain paper?”
Nicolas went to get family members while Myrna remained alone.
She was afraid. Then Myrna heard a woman’s voice:
“My daughter Mary, [Myrna], don’t fear, I am with you. Open the
doors, don’t deprive anyone from my sight. . . .”
When Nicolas returned with several parents and friends he becomes
fearful of what will come of this added dimension of oil. First oil from
Myrna, now oil also coming from the Icon of the Virgin and Christ Child.
Nicolas demands that all keep this a secret. “No, Nicolas, I heard a
woman’s voice telling me to open the doors and not to deprive anyone
from her sight. . . .”
Immediately Nicolas agreed to what his wife was saying. More than
20 years later, the doors of their home remain open all day as thousands
upon thousands have walked into their
home unhindered. There they see the
Icon; there they pray; there they learn
about the messages of Soufanieh.
We have described in brief the very
beginnings of what has happened in
three decades in Damascus, and is still
happening in Soufanieh, a district in
Damascus, Syria. We shall return to
these events again and again. Permit the
author to jump ahead at this time so the
reader can learn quickly the great signif-
icance where God is leading this new
family in Damascus, for the good of
peoples everywhere.
C
On Holy Saturday, April 14, 2001,
at 2:50 p.m., Myrna received a message
from Jesus Christ at Soufanieh. “Stay on
your path, and I am with you.
18
Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
Myrna presents large Soufanieh
Icon to Fr. Fox at conclusion of
Mass to bless people with it.
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Otherwise, I will close the gates of heaven in your faces. But here is
Mother suffering . . . praying . . . saying to me: ‘O Lord, You are love in
its totality!’ And I say: Do not despair, O gate of heaven, because I love
them and I want them to respond to this love with giving. . . .”
Myrna told me years ago of the great love she had for Our Lady of
Fatima. She went to Coimbra, Portugal, where Sr. Lucia lives, the sole
survivor of the three children of Fatima who saw Our Lady. There she
had a brief encounter with Sr. Lucia.
We know the humility Pope John Paul II showed when he went to
the Holy Land in the Great Jubilee Year and broke down many walls of
hostility between Jews and Christians. How? By his honesty, simplici-
ty, humility, goodness, his holiness. And the Pope also reaches out to
the Orthodox to invite them back into unity with Catholicism, their
sister Church.
And what did the Pope do in Greece? In May 2001, after a critical
harangue by the Greek church leader, Archbishop Christodoulous, who
called on the Pope to apologize for things that took place hundreds of
years before, the Pope asked God to forgive whatever wrongs Roman
Catholics have committed against their Orthodox brothers and sisters.
Many Orthodox blame Catholics for a litany of offenses, starting
with the Great Schism of 1054. They also cite the Fourth Crusade that
sacked the Byzantine capital Constantinople in 1204 and the Latin rule
of parts of the crumbling empire. The Pope said, in return, that acts like
the Fourth Crusade fill today’s Catholics with “deep regret.”
After the Pope’s humble apology for things 800 to 1000 years ago,
the demonstrated anger of Orthodox nuns and monks and lay people on
the streets of Athens fizzled out. The white-clad Pope said in an address
to the Archbishop: “For occasions past and present, when the sons and
daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by actions and omission
against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us the
forgiveness we beg of him.”
Christodoulous, who had only grudgingly allowed the Pope to real-
ize his dream of following the footsteps of St. Paul in the region, burst
into applause and embraced the Pope. His aide said the Pope’s statement
was “bold” and that it could help overcome misunderstandings. [The
very next day this Orthodox archbishop boarded a plane and flew to
Moscow to meet with Patriarch Alexi II—who is head of Russian
Orthodox—the largest Orthodox body in the world.]
It is said, Pope John Paul II does not simply allow history to hap-
pen, he directs it.
The Pope, since early in his pontificate, was anxious to visit Russia
where is the world’s largest Orthodox body of Christians resides. The
Pope was long anxious to take with him the Miraculous Icon of Our
Lady of Kazan which he kept in his papal apartment at the Vatican. Our
Blessed Mother on behalf of the Our Lady of Kazan was known in
Ch. 1. Overview of the “Pearl of the East”
19
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Russia as Lady Liberatrix and Protec-
tress. The Lady of Soufanieh Icon in
Damascus is said to be a replica of or
derived as a version of Our Lady of
Kazan Icon which has been venerated
in Russia for centuries. The Russian
Orthodox Church long ago proclaimed
two liturgical feast days in her honor,
July 8 and October 22.
The Icon of Our Lady of Kazan is
one of the most venerated icons in
Russia and is inseparable from its long
Christian history. The image is linked
to the rich sources of Russia’s religious
life. Kazan is a city on the Volga River
located some 500 miles east of Mos-
cow. Invoking Our Lady of Kazan, even taking her image into battle, has
spared Russia repeatedly in past centuries.
The Pope keeps a small replica of Our Lady of Kazan in his limou-
sine which he sees when he travels about Rome.
When Pope John Paul II was shot with virus on the bullet and laid
long in Gemelli Hospital slowly recuperating in Rome, I went to his hos-
pital with about 100 Youth for Fatima. There beneath his hospital win-
dow we sang and His Holiness came to his window and blessed us. At
that time I was told that when the Pope arrived at Gemelli Hospital his
blood pressure was near zero and he was within seconds of being dead.
The Pope became convinced that Our Lady of Fatima spared his
life. He was left in the world to fulfill a special mission, not the least
being the work for the reunion of Christians into one fold.
Myrna Nazzour of Damascus, in developing a special love for Our
Lady of Fatima, obviously senses a connection of Our Lady between the
message of Fatima and that of Soufanieh.
Fatima reminds us that holiness is a condition for the everlasting
happiness of heaven; Fatima tells of the reality of sin, as an offense
against God and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It tells of the Christian
solidarity of the Mystical Body of Christ; and of Mary as Mediatrix of
all grace. Fatima tells of the necessity of penance and prayer for salva-
tion. It tells of the love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and gives us a
call to consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart. In the miracle of
Fatima so that all may believe, the spinning of the sun during which
there was the apparition of the Holy Family, has been interpreted by the
Bishop of Fatima and scholars of Fatima as heaven’s call for the sancti-
fication of the family. Both Fatima and Soufanieh are a call for unity and
holiness of the family.
It was interesting that Pope John Paul II at Damascus gave a
20
Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
The Miraculous Icon of Our Lady
of Kazan, now at the Vatican.
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challenge to families for holiness, for such is also the message of Our
Lady of Soufanieh in Damascus.
Fatima is ecclesial—that is, it calls us to live our spiritual lives with-
in the Church with loyalty and devotion to the Holy Father, the pope.
Fatima calls us to virtues of purity and modesty, to a spirit of reparation.
Fatima promises us the final triumph of the Immaculate Heart of
Mary. And the final triumph I believe will come with the reunion of the
East and the West—when the sister churches, the Roman Catholic
Church and the Orthodox, become united: one Church, one fold, one
shepherd.
When His Holiness spoke in Damascus, where St. Paul was con-
verted, he said:
“Christian families, the Church looks to you with confidence to pass
on to your children the faith which you have received over the centuries
since the time of the Apostle Paul. By remaining united and open to all,
by always defending the right to life from conception, be homes of light,
in full conformity to God’s plan and the true requirements of the human
person! Give significant time to prayer, to listening to God’s word and
to Christian education, in them you will find effective support to tackle
the difficulties of daily life and the great challenges of today’s world. Any
faithful and consistent Christian life requires regular participation in the
Sunday Eucharist. The Eucharist is a privileged gift where communion
with God and others comes about and is proclaimed.”
Because the miracles of Damascus, associated with Our Lady of
Soufanieh, are in a largely Muslim country, to appreciate the significance
of Soufanieh it is important that we have some knowledge of Islam.
C
Islam
According to Dr. John Borelli, executive secretary for Interreligious
Relations, or U.S. National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB):
“Islam,” meaning “grateful surrender (to God),” originated with
Muhammad and the revelation he is believed to have received. Muslims
acknowledge that this revelation, recorded in the Koran, is from the one
God and do not view Islam as a new religion. They profess that
Muhammad was the last in a long series of prophets, most of whom are
named in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, beginning with
Adam and continuing through Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and down
to Muhammad.
“Muslims believe in the one God, Allah in Arabic, and cognate with
Hebrew Elohim and the ancient Aramaic Elah. According to the
Koran, God is one and transcendent, Creator and Sustainer of the
universe, all-merciful and all-compassionate Ruler and Judge. God pos-
sesses numerous other titles, known collectively as the 99 names of God.
Ch. 1. Overview of the “Pearl of the East”
21
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The profession of faith states: ‘There is no god but the God and
Muhammad is the messenger of God.’
“The essential duties of Muslims are to: witness the faith by daily
recitation of the profession of faith; worship five times a day facing in
the direction of the holy city of Mecca; give alms; fast daily from dawn
to dusk during the month of Ramadan; make a pilgrimage to Mecca
once if possible.
“Muslims believe in final judgment, heaven and hell. Morality and
following divinely revealed moral norms are extremely important to
Muslims. Some dietary regulations are in effect. On Fridays, the noon
prayer is a congregational (juma) prayer which should be said in a
mosque. The general themes of prayer are adoration and thanksgiving.
Muslims do not have an ordained ministry.
“The basis of Islamic belief is the Qu’ran, the created word of God
revealed to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over a period of 23
years. The contents of this sacred book are complemented by the Sunna,
a collection of sacred traditions from the life of the prophet
Muhammad, and reinforced by Ijma, the consensus of Islamic scholars
of Islamic Law (Shariah) which guarantees them against errors in mat-
ters of belief and practice.”
C
Conciliar Statement of Vatican II
The official attitude of the Catholic Church toward Islam is stated
as follows in the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation
of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate, No. 3):
“The Church has a high regard for the Muslims. They worship
God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the
Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men. They strive to
submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as
Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims
eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they
venerate Jesus as a prophet, his virgin Mother they also honor, and even
at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of judgment and
the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this rea-
son, they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by
way of prayer, alms, deeds and fasting.
“Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen
between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with
all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve
mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together pre-
serve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.”
Pope John Paul II has met with Muslim leaders and delegations
both in Rome and during his trips abroad. He addressed large gather-
22
Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
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ings of Muslims in Morocco, Indonesia, Mali and elsewhere. The Pon-
tifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has held formal dialogues
with Islamic organizations from time to time.
Following the example of Abraham, Jews, Christians and Muslims
strive to give to God the place in their lives which is his due as Fount
and Origin, Master and Guide, and Ultimate Destiny of all beings. Yet,
they are aware too that there are also other believers, men and women
with religious sentiments, who are worthy of respect. It is in the name of
God that every authentic believer shows respect for each human person.
Mary is Islam-Christianity link. Mary is the only woman men-
tioned in the Koran. The Koran regards Mary as holy and says that she
is the most pure woman in the world. The Muslim world may have dif-
ferent interpretations of the Koran but they all have a profound respect
for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
When Iran reestablished diplomatic relations with the Vatican in
1999 some of the Muslim leaders learned about Mary’s appearance at
Fatima, Portugal for the first time. It was somewhat shocking to them.
Fatima was the daughter of Mohammed and the Portuguese town was
named by the Moors when they occupied the country. The Muslims
found the coincidence startling and concluded that the apparitions were
a message that Mary wished to mediate and bring peace to the world.
Sura 19 (“Suras” are equivalent to books in the Bible) is entitled
“Maryam: Mary,” The Sura describes the virgin birth of Jesus and the
special place Mary has in the Moslem faith.
The Muslims also share a profound respect for life, notwithstanding
a fringe element of terrorists. At the United Nation’s Beijing and Cairo
Population Conferences, it was the Muslim world that came to the side
of the Pope and supported pro-life. The resentment of America by many
Muslims is reportedly more America’s preoccupation with material
goods than it is with its religion.
Our Lady choosing Muslim country for the special message for
Christian Unity brings with it a message of our relationship to Muslims.
Happening in the area of St. Paul’s conversion and baptism contains in
itself a message to return to our early Christian roots, to “one Lord, one
faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5).
C
Ch. 1. Overview of the “Pearl of the East”
23
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(Above) A photo collage of
Myrna suffering during Holy
Week. Shown in front is the
chalice used by Pope John Paul
II when he was in Damascus
in May, 2001. (Right) Pic-
tured with the light blue
awning is the home of Nicolas
and Myrna Nazzour. The
iron railing is that through
which the Virgin passed.
24
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(Top) Myrna’s and Nicolas’s wedding day. The phenomenon of Soufanieh began
about six months later. (Bottom) Myrna and Nicolas and their children, John,
Emmanuel and Miriam, with the author as he was researching for this book in
September, 2001.
25
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Maya Patsalides, center, was an invaluable interpreter and translator. She also
translated Father’s homilies as he offered Mass daily before the Soufanieh Icon.
(Left) The Holy Family
Icon in the Virgin’s House
of Soufanieh is immedi-
ately beside the Mirac-
ulous Icon. This same
family icon is in thou-
sands of Fatima Family
homes.
26