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Chapter 4
Transfer of the Icon and Healings
HENEVER GOD USES certain souls in a special way
to glorify him and lead many others to himself, those
souls invariably have to suffer in a special way.
A Victim Soul is a person especially chosen by God
to suffer more than most people during life, and is one who generously
accepts the suffering in union with the Savior and after the example of
Christ’s own Passion and Death. The motive of a victim soul is a great
love of God and the desire to make reparation for the sins of mankind.
A Christian couple united in Christ through the bonds of Holy
Matrimony become one. What affects one, affects the other. What in-
volves one, involves the other. Nicolas and Myrna did not have long to
wait. The events clearly indicate that while Myrna is the one who un-
dergoes special sufferings, stigmata, has ecstasies, apparitions, all this
closely involves her husband who first obtained the Icon. It involves too
her entire family which will be involved in opening the door of their
home to Jesus Christ. While accepting the decision of the Patriarch,
nonetheless, privately in their hearts, they were worried and saddened
about the transfer of the Icon to take place on January 9, 1983.
The Icon was transferred to the Church of the Holy Cross with the
ceremony beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 9, 1983. The glass
of the Icon at that time was covered with many small oil droplets.
Just before the transfer began, Myrna and Nicolas stood in the mid-
dle of the patio of their home shedding tears, while holding the Icon in
front of them so that many people present could kiss it hoping thus to
receive a blessing.
The Orthodox Patriarchate assigned Fr. Joseph Zahlaoui (not relat-
ed to Fr. Elias Zahlaoui) to carry the Icon in the procession. In the
Orthodox way he would carry the Icon at arm’s length above his head.
The ceremony was simple but the people felt a great emotion while
demonstrating a profound piety. Thousands of people from all confes-
sions of faith formed along the 500 meters/yards between the house of
Soufanieh and the Church of the Holy Cross.
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
It is time to introduce
our readers to Fr. Joseph
Malouli,
Melkite
Catholic, a saintly priest
who died March 5, 2000.
His last name is based on
the place of his origin,
Maloula, Syria, where
people still speak the lan-
guage of Aramaic, which
was spoken by Jesus
Christ when he was on
earth physically for 33
years. Fr. Malouli was a
Lazarist priest in Damas-
cus from the Con-
gregation of the
Mission.
He began
teaching at the Lazarist
college of Bab Touma in
Damascus in 1940. He
became a witness from
the first days of the apparitions and the signs manifested in Soufanieh. He
carefully transcribed the messages and noted meticulously everything that
was happening in the house of Soufanieh where he spent much time. He
became a spiritual guide to Myrna as well as offering guidance to the many
pilgrims who visited the House. He said: “I have let myself be caught total-
ly (body and soul) by the phenomenon of Soufanieh.”
Fr. Malouli had been a priest most cautious to any reports of super-
natural happenings. At first he too refused to go to the Soufanieh house
to investigate. After the first report reached him, the day the Security
Officers accompanied by their physician went to investigate Myrna, it
was two weeks before he made his first visit to Soufanieh.
When Fr. Malouli finally went to Soufanieh he insisted it be with
his Superior General, Fr. Farah, together with the Mother Superior of
the Daughters of Charity. His concern was not to see oil but to meet
Myrna. He asked her some theological questions and became convinced
a supernatural happening was possible. From then on Fr. Malouli joined
the crowd in prayer. Nicolas Nazzour told me of his great admiration of
Fr. Malouli whom he considered a very holy man. They have a large pic-
ture of him to this day in their living room.
Fr. Joseph Malouli became very valuable in spiritual advice to the
Nazzours and very instrumental in the events until his death March 5,
2000. When the Icon was to be moved to the Church of the Holy Cross,
it was Fr. Malouli who was at the head of the procession leading the
Fr. Joseph Malouli, C.M., a key priest in Soufanieh
events. He kept records from the beginning of the
phenomena.
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Rosary. While Fr. Joseph Zahlaoui carried the Icon, Fr. Elias Zahlaoui
was at his side. They were surrounded by two choirs, one a Greek-
Catholic and the other, a Greek-Orthodox choir. One can see a certain
unity in these very acts between the Orthodox and the Catholics. Myrna
and Nicolas walked behind these with eyes red from tears.
As the procession entered the street leading to the Church of the
Holy Cross, Fr. Joseph Zahlaoui, Orthodox, turned to Fr. Elias
Zahlaoui, Catholic, and said: “It is a day that reminds us of the time of
Constantinople.”
The important spiritual place of Fr. Malouli in the Soufanieh events
from the beginning is seen in the events of Holy Week, April 2001, a
year after the priest’s death. In 2001 the Orthodox and Catholic Church
celebrated Easter at the same time. Myrna saw Fr. Malouli during the
ecstasy of Holy Saturday, April 14, 2001. I’ve seen her on the film that
was made and she is shown pointing to the place where Fr. Malouli used
to sit during previous ecstasies. Myrna was pointing to inform people
that she had seen him with the Holy Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ dur-
ing the ecstasy. This was the only ecstasy where Myrna has seen both
Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary at the same time.
While at Soufanieh I said to Myrna, “I noticed that at one point
during the sufferings of Holy Week 2001 you noticed your son John
Emmanuel, and he was crying. You extended your hand to embrace
and give him comfort.” It impressed me deeply that the mother under-
going the sufferings of Jesus Christ, the wound marks clearly visible,
Chapter 4. Transfer of the Icon and Healings 77
Myrna during ecstasy of Holy Week 2001 sees deceased Fr. Joseph Malouli in light
and points to where he used to sit.
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
thinks lovingly of her son and reaches out to him. “Myrna, what hap-
pened at that time?” Myrna smiled and told me, “John Emmanuel was
crying and saying, ‘Mamma, I don’t want Christian unity.’” The boy
understood that all the unusual happenings were for unity among
Christians everywhere. But if it made his dear mother suffer so much,
he gave a normal child’s reaction. Myrna added, “I said to him, ‘It is all
right. I am happy.’”
Later I reminded John Emmanuel of this incident and asked him,
“Do you still not want Christian unity?” He said, “Yes, Father, now I
want Christian unity.”
Returning to our account of the transfer of the Icon from the
Nazzour home to the church, it was finally placed on a special setting, a
few meters from the Royal Door in front of the Iconostasis. It would
remain there for 43 days during which time the church would be filled
with prayerful people. During all this time, however, the Icon at the
Church of the Holy Cross exuded no oil whatsoever.
While without the oil, there was an instantaneous healing of a Mrs.
Alice Benilian on January 25, 1983. She and friends had come from
Aleppo in Syria to Soufanieh. For 13 years she had suffered from paral-
ysis of the right arm which was drying up. In prayer before the Icon, she
felt three times pressures on her head. It was as if they were caused by a
mysterious hand. At the third pressure Alice reported that it felt like a
ball of fire going down through her head, hurling down to her chest. At
that instant, her right arm became unbent, regaining color and vigor.
Her physician, Dr. Pierre Salam from Aleppo, noted this extraordinary
recovery, concluding, “Personally, I don’t have any scientific explanation
to give about this healing.”
Meanwhile at their home, Nicolas and Myrna placed another Icon
without glass in their room. It was like the one placed in the church. The
paper reproduction in their home then oozed oil several times, the oil
building up on the surface of the Icon while the original one which
oozed oil at the church had discontinued giving forth oil. Prayer in the
Virgin’s House in Soufanieh continued even while the Icon was in the
Orthodox church. There appears to be a message in all this. Our Lord
and his Mother are intent on giving special attention to the family at
home; there is a call for our homes to become domestic churches, minia-
ture mystical bodies, homes where Jesus is present by the faith and the
spiritual lives of those who dwell there. Our Lord and His Mother are
intent on calling families to prayer in their homes.
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(Above) The eucalyp-
tus tree (far right) by
the river, across the
street from the Naz-
zour home, taken from
the terrace. The Virgin
came from the tree to
stand on the terrace
before Myrna.
(Left) A close-up of the
tree.
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Fox. Light from the East —Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
The Icon Is Returned
The Icon which was taken to the Church of the Holy Cross so cere-
moniously was returned in a manner most unceremonious. On Monday,
February 21, 1983, two Greek-Orthodox priests, Fathers Kfoury and
Hosni, came to the Nazzour home without warning. They returned the
Icon in a cheap, black plastic bag.
Nicolas became upset with the abrupt and undignified manner of its
return. He had some loud words of opinion to express to these priests.
Fr. Malouli who had arrived at this time, heard the loud talking from
outside. He waited outside until a proper time to enter.
As soon as the Christian communities in Damascus learned of the
manner of the return of the Icon, the majority of Christians were
shocked. It is difficult to discover just what all happened or the reasons.
I inquired why in Soufanieh. The most I heard, but not from the
Nazzour family, was something to the effect that now the world comes
into the Nazzour home. Some working at the church complained they
had to clean it more often because of the crowds that were coming when
the Icon was there. Whatever happened, it appears that after the inci-
dent, good Christians did not want to pass judgment and all is best for-
gotten regarding the manner and reasons for the return..
It seems that Our Lord and Our Lady want the house of Soufanieh,
a family home, to be the center of the Soufanieh movement throughout
the world. Our Lord and Our Lady wanted the Icon back in the
Nazzour family home also, to give the message that Jesus and Mary
desire to be in our homes. Soufanieh is a call not only for unity of all
Christians; it is a call for the sanctification of the family. The center of
the marvels of Soufanieh are best manifested in the house of Soufanieh.
From the East comes the call for family love and unity. From the East
comes the call for Christian unity.
The message to Myrna from the Virgin from the beginning had
been “. . . I am asking for love. . . . I shall visit homes more often, because those
who go to church, sometimes, do not go there to pray. I am not asking you to
build me a church, but a shrine. Give. Do not turn away anyone who asks for
help.”
The house of Soufanieh, a family home, has become a shrine, a
place of prayer for the domestic church.
The Lazarist priest, Fr. Joseph Malouli, was obviously needed that
he arrived at the home of the Nazzours shortly after the return of the
Icon and the disturbance that ensued. He communicated with all in-
volved the need to be reconciled and for everyone to pray.
At 9 that evening Fr. Malouli was praying with Myrna. His own
prayer went: “Virgin Mary, enlighten us so that we don’t make a mistake
that can jeopardize your program.”
After a few minutes of silent prayer, Myrna left the room hastily,
without saying anything. She felt a force pulling on her shoulder and
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went rapidly up the stairs to the terrace which is exposed to the outside
air. Her brother-in-law Awad noticed Myrna going to the terrace where
the previous apparition had taken place, that first one from which she
had been frightened and ran away. Thus no message had been received
during that first apparition.
Awad calls to Fr. Malouli: “Abouna (Father), Myrna went up on the
terrace.”
All in the Soufanieh house hurried to join Myrna on the terrace.
They found her kneeling, her hands joined and her face shining bright-
ly. She was speaking some words that seemed to be dictated by another
person. The following is the message Myrna later confirmed was given
her by the Virgin Mary in dialectal Arabic:
Let it be said between us,
I have come back here.
Do not insult the haughty
who are devoid of humility.
The humble person craves other people’s remarks
to correct his shortcomings,
while the corrupt and haughty neglects,
rebels, becomes hostile.
Forgiveness is the best thing.
He who pretends to be pure
and loving before people,
is impure before God.
I would like to request something from you,
a word that you will engrave in your memory,
that you shall always repeat:
God saves me, Jesus enlightens me,
the Holy Spirit is my life,
thus I fear nothing,
Is it not so, my son Joseph?
Forbear and forgive.
Forbear much less than the Father has forborne.
After the apparition all went downstairs. They began to discuss the
message and all wondered: “Who is Joseph whom Our Lady men-
tioned?” Fr. Malouli remained quiet, meditating. After about a half an
hour he searched in one of the pockets of his cassock. There he found
his identification and presented it to the people present. His name was
“Joseph.” This was not known in Damascus, but he was known by every-
one in Syria as simply “Abouna Malouli.” Fr. Malouli then told the
Chapter 4. Transfer of the Icon and Healings 81
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people what he had been praying before the message came. He was
“Joseph” to whom the Virgin made reference.
Fathers Zahlaoui and Malouli have been called “the two pillars of
Soufanieh” since their interest and guidance relative to the events exist-
ed from the early days of the phenomenon. These two well known and
highly respected priests in Damascus did much to gain credibility from
Church leaders. They did not get involved for their own sakes, for it
meant problems for them.
Even some priests were not inclined to believe reports of the super-
natural at Soufanieh. At the same time intellectuals in Syria, such as
physicians, lawyers, teachers, became interested in the reported events at
Soufanieh when they heard that the highly respected priests such as
Fathers Malouli and Zahlaoui were often present there and favorable to
Soufanieh.
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Healings
The first reported healing associated with Soufanieh is striking. On
Saturday, December 11, 1982, Myrna and Nicolas were asked by a
Hanna family to visit their son Samir, who had a serious case of throm-
bosis and doctors had said that he was in danger of death at any
moment. Samir was also asking to receive our Lord in the Holy
Eucharist. Myrna and Nicolas thus informed Fr. Elias Zahlaoui who
agreed to go with them to bring Holy Communion to Samir.
When the three arrived at the room of the sick Samir they were sur-
prised to see him rise from his bed, kneel down, and place his forehead
on the ground. When Fr. Zahlaoui, concerned for his condition, tried to
stop him from this, Samir said: “Father, God exists.”
Samir, once back in his bed, asked Nicolas to leave for he wanted to
talk to Myrna. “My sister Mary, you are thinking of retiring to a con-
vent, and the Virgin Mary does not want you to do that.” Myrna was
astonished since she had thought about it much for several days, but had
not talked about it to anyone. He had also called Myrna by her bap-
tismal name, “Mary.” The Nazzour and Hanna families had previously
not known each other.
A few days before these incidents, Samir had suffered an infarction
followed by cerebral hemorrhage. A friend had hurried to Soufanieh and
brought back a wad of cotton moistened with oil. Although Samir’s par-
ents had protested, his friend placed the cotton into Samir’s mouth, forc-
ing his jaws open with a spoon. It was then Samir opened his eyes,
looked at his family with tears, and asked for Holy Communion and for
Myrna and Nicolas to come. A reproduction of the image of the Virgin
Mary, but different from the one of Soufanieh, had been hung above
Samir’s bed and oozed oil repeatedly for three weeks.
On December 19, 1982, a Sunday, just eight days after his recovery,
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
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Samir Hanna went to the House of Soufanieh. While getting out of the
car, he joined hands which were suddenly covered with oil. He raised
them into the air, spread his fingers, fearing that he would be accused of
concealing cotton moistened with oil. He held his hands in the air as he
entered the house. Those who had known the gravity of his illness were
startled to see him alert, his face beaming with happiness. He prayed for
a long time before the Icon. Then, in late afternoon, he participated in
holy Mass offered by Fr. Zahlaoui at his parish Church of Our Lady of
Damascus.
Something took place between the events of December 11 and 19,
noted above, which is known as the “first healing at Soufanieh.” On
Thursday, December 16, 1982, a Dr. Jamil Marjithe visited the house of
Soufanieh. He had been trying for an hour by rational arguments to
prove that all these events associated with Soufanieh were subjective,
since no modern science can prove them.
A woman clothed in black, kneeling before the Icon, suddenly
began to scream. Other people close to her were shouting: “Oh, Virgin!
She is healed.”
She was taken to the lounge, incapable of talking for herself, for she
was so emotionally shaken but she was moving her arms violently. Her
son was with her and explained that she had had a paralysis of the right
hand because of a calcification of the shoulder. Fr. Zahlaoui, suspecting
that she had just been healed, requested medical certificates from her
son as soon as possible. He had them with him. The day before he had
come with his mother, Raquille Kilta, to visit Dr. Samir Roumani.
Fr. Zahlaoui took the certificate, shared it with Dr. Marjithe who
was near him. The doctor browsed the certificate and finally examined
Mrs. Kilta. A few minutes later, the physician came back, emotionally
shaken, and said to Fr. Zahlaoui: “Father, I surrender. This is beyond me
and beyond any human power. I am ready to testify before anyone. Let
me keep this report for a while, in order that I can continue to observe
this lady’s progress in collaboration with Dr. Samir Roumani. . . . ”
The doctor who had come into the house of Soufanieh with the
intention of showing these people reasons why they were in error now
left with a conviction that what was happening at Soufanieh was from a
power above.
Dr. Marjithe, after leaving the house of Soufanieh, went to the dis-
trict’s chief policeman and the commander in chief of the police of
Damascus, General Walid Hammamieh. The doctor informed them of
the spontaneous recovery to which he was witness. Within half an hour
the civil authorities came to the house of Soufanieh offering their serv-
ices, should the ever-increasing crowd cause any trouble.
Damascus at this time was living under tension and fearing political
manifestations on other accounts. Policemen had strict orders to forbid
any gatherings. But this injunction did not apply to Soufanieh. In fact,
Chapter 4. Transfer of the Icon and Healings 83
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
during these years in Soufanieh several popular processions, with thou-
sands of people, took place, with no significant incident. Such is the
account of the first healing that took place in the house of Soufanieh.
The second healing began on December 17, 1982, when Fr.
Zahlaoui arrived at the house of Soufanieh and was introduced to Mrs.
Ghalya Armouche who affirmed that she had been healed in an extraor-
dinary way.
Ghalya had endured violent pain in her right hand for some
months. Her daughter asked her to go to Soufanieh on the evening of
December 16, 1982, but the pains were so sharp that she could not go.
Instead, she asked for a piece of cotton impregnated with oil. In the
evening, Ghalya slipped the cotton into her nightgown’s sleeve, after
having prayed. She fell asleep. That night she dreamed that a beautiful
lady was pushing her shoulder while telling her: “Stand up, your pains
are gone!”
The next day her pains had gone. On the evening of December 27,
1982, Fr. Zahlaoui asked to have an interview with Mrs. Armouche’s
physician, Dr. Toutounji. The priest asked the physician what he fore-
saw for his patient.
He presented an X-ray taken two and a half months earlier saying:
“The poor woman is condemned to paralysis.”
“Will it be possible to make an artificial joint?” the priest asked.
“Here, no. But if these people are wealthy, she may be operated on
in Europe. Anyway, ask her to come and see me tomorrow.”
“I think that she does not need your services anymore, doctor. Some
other physician has healed her.”
“What are you saying, Father?”
“The Virgin Mary has healed her, doctor!”
Dr. Toutounji performed a new X-ray on Tuesday, December 28,
followed by a check-up. He observed that the calcification, since the
previous X-ray, had increased in volume. Therefore full recovery could
not be confirmed. The physician observed that his patient did not recov-
er the total mobility of her hand. To this day, the pain has not come back
and the calcification is static. Contrary to other healings which have
taken place at Soufanieh with total disappearance of the illness or infir-
mity, in this case, the paralysis and pain disappeared although the calci-
fication remained.
Many healings have been confirmed related to the events at Sou-
fanieh. Many people have eye-witnessed most of the healings. The effect
on the people has always been a joyful crowd praising God’s glory for a
long time. The number of Christians whose faith has been rekindled or
strengthened by the events of Soufanieh is incalculable.
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Thousands of Witnesses on December 19, 1982
There were thousands of witnesses present on Sunday, December
19, 1982, gathered on the sidewalk and on Soufanieh streets and in the
public garden, which is just across the road from the house of Soufanieh.
The crowd was anywhere from five thousand to ten thousand, no one
knows. Christians and Muslims were united in prayer.
Mohammed Al-Kahwaji, a young Muslim soldier, came carrying in
his arms his bedridden father. His father had been struck by a hemi-
plegic when it had been announced to him that his son, a soldier in
Lebanon, had been killed. The information was erroneous. It was his
son, whom he believed dead, who had carried him in his arms to
Soufanieh, as Myrna tells it:
“I approached the sick person and I told him: Pray, ask the Virgin
Mary to heal you. Shortly after, he rose and stood up, initially with
some difficulty, then he walked. His son Mohammed waited outside,
praying for his father. And suddenly he saw his father before him,
standing. He immediately knelt on the ground and shouted with joy:
‘Thank you, thank you, Oh Virgin Mary.’ The people shouted: ‘He is
healed. He is healed. Hail Mary. . . .’ Some applauded, others joyfully
shouted.”
On the same day, a 25-year-old Muslim man, Fadi Bahem, came
carrying his older brother in his arms to Soufanieh. A witness described
it this way: “His legs were wobbly. Deep inside me, I asked the Lord to
forgive me, because I did not know how this person would be healed.
But when I saw him leave the house alone on his feet, I almost lost my
mind. Was I hallucinating? No. He was walking by himself.”
The crowd was filled with joy when it saw this young man walk-
ing slowly. They sang hymns to the honor of the Virgin Mary. When
they were making their way home which is in Mnin, a village eight
miles north of Damascus, his eldest brother, a military man, started
shooting into the air with his revolver in jubilation, upon seeing his
healed brother arriving.
When Jesus performed miracles of healing as recorded in the New
Testament his motive was to bring people to faith. During his public life
on earth Jesus Christ healed the sick, cured the deaf-mutes, paralytics,
and the blind. He also delivered those possessed by the devil. Since early
Christian times healing is of concern to the Church’s care, for those sick
and in physical or emotional need. Always in imitation of Jesus Christ,
the Church’s healing ministry has been understood as not stopping with
people’s bodily needs. The Church, as was Jesus Christ, is concerned
with the whole person, body and soul, and seeks to alleviate every
human pain or disability, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual.
The Sacraments of the Church, especially Penance (Reconciliation)
and the Anointing of the Sick, are specially directed to healing.These
Chapter 4. Transfer of the Icon and Healings 85
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
Sacraments are primarily to heal sickness of the soul and the anointing,
if it be God’s will, is to heal the body.
The miracles of Soufanieh exist, not simply to heal individuals. The
message for Christians everywhere is that Jesus Christ founded one
Church to last until the end of time. The miracles give testimony to the
message of Soufanieh for love and unity between Christians, and love
and unity in each family.
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Bishop Luigi Accogli, former papal nuncio to Damascus giving Pope John
Paul II Soufanieh Icon.