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Chapter 5
Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui,
An Apostle of Soufanieh
Soufanieh Extends throughout the World
E HAVE ALREADY introduced readers to Fr. Elias
Zahlaoui in chapter 3. He is a Melkite Catholic priest
and vicar of Our Lady of Damascus—a Greek-Catholic
rite parish in Damascus. He is the priest who at first refused to look into
the reported supernatural events at Soufanieh but finally came to inves-
tigate at the insistence of young persons, whom he knew to be serious
and well balanced.
Fr. Zahlaoui was born in Damascus in 1932. His studies included
the Greek-Melkite Catholic seminary of Ste. Anne in Jerusalem. He
was ordained in Damascus in July 1959, devoting himself for much of
his priesthood to university youth while teaching at the Damascus Uni-
versity. He has been the parish priest of Our Lady of Damascus since
1977 and founded the choir known as “Chœur-Joie” (“Choir of Joy”),
consisting of over 450 members of the different Christian communities
in Damascus.
He in known in Damascus as a very able spokesman with a reputa-
tion for integrity and search for truth while living a life in the spirit of
poverty and abnegation. Soufanieh has definitely had its mark in the life
of this priest with his involvements from the beginning.
The Virgin Mary is more than well aware of Fr. Zahlaoui’s involve-
ments with the Virgin House of Soufanieh and all the events connect-
ed with it. This is shown in the message received by Myrna in
December, 1982 as follows:
“My son Elias, I myself have lifted you up from the ailing bed, and I made
you leave your church to come here and serve Me. Carry on your work of
spreading the faith. You are an apostle. You are good. I, myself, am aware of
your long struggle since the holy month of July. I know you struggle with your-
self and with all those who surround you and especially with your church and
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
the other churches. You are an apostle. You are good. The unity which you are
seeking will happen.”
We must be careful in reading the messages in English that we do
not misinterpret. It does not mean that Fr. Elias left the Catholic
Church. A theologian in Australia told me that he did not think
Soufanieh could be true for Our Lady would never say some of the
things reported. The real problem he experienced I believe was from
some translations and not going to original sources. It is important to
understand what was the real message given in the Syriac language. This
is one reason why, when it was suggested to me to write a book in
English on Soufanieh, I replied, “I would never do that without going to
Damascus, Syria and discovering things first-hand.” And I had no
intention of going to Syria nor did I think there would be any such pos-
sibility. Yet, things were arranged for me.
My personal interview with Fr. Zahlaoui was on September 17,
2001, at the House of Soufanieh, home to Nicolas and Myrna Nazzour
and children. It went as follows:
“Father, tell me of your initial experiences.”
“The second time I came here, November 28, 1982, I saw oil. For
about a month I watched what was going on here. Archbishop François
Abov-Mokh, Latin rite, had said to me, ‘Keep me informed. Be in-
volved, watch with caution what is going on.’
“On December 29, 1982, I went to this same archbishop and report-
ed what happened during the month. The archbishop helped me to
meet the Orthodox Patriarch and I told him what is going on in the
House of Soufanieh.”
Fr. Zahlaoui talks with the author, having anointed him with oil immediately
before the Shrine marking the spot of the apparitions.
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On December 30, 1982, the archbishop met the Antiochian Greek-
Orthodox Patriarch at 8 a.m. Myrna and Nicolas met him in Damascus
at 9 a.m. He received the young couple kindly and said, “I’ll make some
flyers with a declaration to inform all the priests and people about what
is going on.” At this point Fr. Zahlaoui gave me the communication of
the Patriarchate for priest and people as reported in chapter 3.
I next inquired, “Fr. Elias Zahlaoui, it seems that the Soufanieh
message involves not only Church Unity but the family.”
He replied: “Correct. But it requires the family to return to God.
The first message was really given to her at the second apparition
because of Myrna’s state of panic at the first. [She had run away at the
first apparition and did not stay to get a message.]
“Consider the first message that was given to Myrna, December 18,
1982:
My children, remember God, because God is with us. You know all things
and yet you know nothing. Your knowledge is an incomplete knowledge. But
the day will come when you will know all things, the way God knows Me. Do
good to those who do evil. And do not harm anyone. I have given you oil more
than you have asked for, but I shall give you something much more powerful
than oil.
Repent and have faith, and remember me in your joy. Announce my Son
the Emmanuel. He who announces Him is saved, and he who does not
announce Him, his faith is vain. Love one another.
I am not asking for money to give to churches, nor for money to distribute
to the poor. I am asking for love. Those who distribute their money to the poor
and to churches, but have no love, those are nothing. 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.
This first message requires meditation. Our Lady is saying she will
visit homes more often, that means families. She has given the sign of
her visitations by the exuding of olive oil. Thousands of replicas of Our
Lady with the Christ Child, as is present in the House of Soufanieh, the
home of Nicolas and Myrna, have oozed oil around the world.
Myrna has traveled to many parts of the world and while people are
praying often the oil has been experienced. When the Icon oozes oil in
homes, that home becomes a special place of prayer for the family and
friends. They come to realize that the home is to be a domestic church,
a place of faith and prayer.
Fr. Zahlaoui continued to reply to my observation that Soufanieh
contained a message for the family as well as for Christian unity.
“The new culture must be set aside for the spirituality of the fami-
ly. This message goes further even for Islam. It is leading to dialogue
with Islam. This message came for all in the Middle East in a special
way, concerning the conflicts. It is for Christians and Muslims as Jesus
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 89
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died for everyone. It is for the Middle East first, but also for the whole
world because Jesus died for everyone.
“The holy Mother of God speaks for and to everybody. The
Soufanieh message is for all people as Myrna was told: ‘Tell it to all
people.’”
I observed to Fr. Zahlaoui that Myrna was only in her 18th year
when she married May 9, 1982. “Why would God pick such a young
bride for this?”
The priest replied: “First, you have to ask God. I have a second
answer. At the beginning of a new marriage, the Sacrament of
Matrimony, which was recently given to them, is the moment of holi-
ness. The holiness is great. The sacrament is new.”
Nicolas, in whose home I was interviewing Fr. Zahlaoui, heard some
of our interview and offered the following information.
“Our marriage was not an arranged thing. My brother had married
her sister, so we knew each other. We had known each other for two
years. She was 16-years-old when I met her for the first time. We were
not dating like they do in America. There were family connections. We
met in the context of the family. On September 13, eve of the Feast of
the Exultation of the Cross, we were engaged in 1981. On May 9, 1982,
we got married.
“I loved this girl. I liked to joke, dance and swim, and so did Myrna.
It seemed we had the same hobbies. In our opinion it seemed that we
liked each other, were happy with each other. First I asked Myrna if she
agreed. She replied: ‘OK. Ask my father.’ Her brother hit her because I
am older by 20 years. In the East the mother always goes along with the
father. My father was dead. Syrian Christians among men usually marry
at 27 or 28. Women are usually 10 or so years younger as a custom. If
they are the same age, that is acceptable.”
Nicolas had mentioned to me, while at Soufanieh, that the events of
Soufanieh, the first vision, was at the same date and time as the first
vision of St. Catherine Labouré who was shown the Miraculous Medal
to make known to the world.
The Guardian Angel of St. Catherine Labouré, in the form of a
child, awoke her during the night, led her to the chapel which was
brightly lit. The Blessed Mother then sat in a chair before the altar. St.
Catherine rested her arms on the lap of the Holy Mother for a long time
and had intimate conversations with our heavenly Queen and Mother.
In one vision the Holy Virgin stood on an image of the world.
The Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary contains a
design revealed in 1830 to St. Catherine Labouré, a Daughter of Charity
of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris. In visions she had of Our Lady she was
shown a medal which on one side had the image of Mary with arms out-
stretched with the words: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us
who have recourse to thee.” On the reverse side is the letter M with a
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cross and 12 stars about it and the Hearts of Jesus and Mary underneath
the Cross and M [see p. 132]. It is really an image of Mary as Mother
of the Church, Queen of the Apostles and Mediatrix of all graces, while
all grace originates for mankind with the redeeming death of Jesus
Christ on the Cross. Jesus is the sole essential Mediator. The image of
the Miraculous Medal reminds us that the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are
inseparable.
The number of miracles attached to the wearing of this medal gave
it the popular description of “Miraculous.” Its popularity is similar to the
brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Miraculous Medal
is the badge of the Sodality of the Children of Mary.
There are numerous shrines and devotions dedicated to Our Lady
of the Miraculous Medal. Weekly devotions to her are celebrated in
thousands of Catholic churches throughout the world.
I asked Fr. Zahlaoui if he thought I should make mention of the
Miraculous Medal in this book and its initiation corresponding as to
dates with Soufanieh. His response was as follows:
“1830 ushered in the Marian Era of Our Lady. First it became
known in Europe and now is becoming known in the Orient. A mes-
sage from Jesus Christ (Maad, Lebanon) on Wednesday, July 22, 1987,
was as follows: ‘Do not fear, my daughter, in you I shall educate my gen-
eration. Pray, pray, and pray again!’ And if you pray, say: ‘O Father,
through the merits of Your beloved Son’s wounds, save us.’”
I asked Fr. Zahlaoui: “Why did Jesus say ‘educate My generation?’”
The first period beginning on October 28, 1983, it was the Blessed
Virgin Mary who said it. Now both Jesus and Mary say it.
Fr. Zahlaoui then showed me records of the message of ecstasies for
the first period, October 28, 1983, to November 26, 1985. You will
notice “educate My generation” more than once.
Message from the Holy Virgin Mary, Friday, October 28, 1983:
Do not fear, all this is happening to glorify the name of God. Do
not fear, in you I shall educate my generation.
Message from the Holy Virgin Mary, Friday, November 4, 1983:
Go down and tell them that you are My daughter before being
theirs . . . My heart has been consumed over My only Son. It will
not be consumed over all My children.
Message from the Holy Virgin Mary, Friday, November 25, 1983:
This is all I want. I have not come to separate. Your married life
will remain as it is . . . Would you like to come to Me? . . .
Come . . . Your willingness (to come to Me) is enough.
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 91
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Message from Jesus Christ, Thursday, May 31, 1984 (Ascension Day):
My daughter, I am the Beginning and the End. I am Truth, Free-
dom and Peace. My Peace I give you. Your peace shall not
depend on what people say, be it good or bad, and think little of
yourself. He who does not seek people’s approval, and does not
fear their disapproval, enjoys true peace. And this is achieved
through Me.
Live your life, contented and independent. The pains you have
incurred for Me shall not break you. Rather, rejoice. I am capable
of rewarding you. Your hardships will not be prolonged, and your
pains will not last. Pray with adoration, because eternal life is
worth these sufferings.
Pray for God’s will to be done in you, and say:
Beloved Jesus,
Grant that I rest in You above all things,
above all creatures,
above all Your angels,
above all praise,
above all rejoicing and exultation,
above all glory and honor,
above all heavenly hosts,
For You alone are the Most High,
You alone are the Almighty
and Good above all things.
May You come to me and relieve me,
and release me from my chains,
and grant me freedom,
because without You my joy is not complete,
without You my table is empty.
Only then will I come to say: Here I am, because you have
invited me.
Message from the Holy Virgin Mary, Friday, September 7, 1984:
[The Virgin Mary entrusts Myrna with a secret. Myrna remem-
bers from the message only the following words:]
Live your life, but let not life prevent you from continuing to pray.
Message from the Holy Virgin Mary, Wednesday, May 1, 1985:
My children, assemble. My heart is wounded. Do not allow My
heart to break because of your divisions. My daughter, I shall give
you a gift for your hardships.
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Message from the Holy Virgin Mary (Hassake, Syria), Sunday, August
4, 1985:
The Church is the kingdom of Heaven on earth. He who has
divided it has sinned. And he who has rejoiced from its division
has also sinned. I am happy: do not fear, I am with you. In you I
shall educate My generation.
Message from the Holy Virgin Mary, Wednesday, August 14, 1985:
Happy anniversary. It is always a feast for Me whenever I see you
all gathered together. Your prayer is My feast. Your faith is My
feast. The union of your hearts is My feast.
Message from Jesus Christ, Saturday, September 7, 1985:
I am the Creator. I created her, so that she could create Me. Rejoice
from the joy of Heaven, because the Daughter of the Father and
the Mother of God and the Spouse of the Spirit is born. Exult
from the exultation of the earth.
Message from Jesus Christ, Tuesday, November 26th, 1985 [eve of the
third anniversary of the phenomenon]:
My daughter, do you wish to be crucified or glorified?
Answer: Glorified.
Christ smiles and says:
Do you prefer to be glorified by the creature or the Creator?
Answer: By the Creator.
Christ: This is realized through Crucifixion. Because each time you
look at the creatures, the eyes of the Creator move away from you.
My daughter, I want you to apply yourself to praying and to humble
yourself. He who humbles himself, God increases him in strength
and in greatness. I was crucified out of love for you, and I want you
to carry and bear your cross for Me, willingly, with love and patience,
and (I want you) to await My arrival. He who participates in My suf-
fering, I shall make him participate in My glory. And there is no sal-
vation for the soul except through the Cross. Do not fear, My daugh-
ter, I shall give you from My wounds enough to repay the debts of the
sinners. This is the source from which every soul may drink. And if
My absence lasts, and the light disappears from you, do not fear, this
will be for My glorification. Go to the land where corruption has pre-
vailed, and remain in God’s peace.
C
Notice the words of the Mother of the Church message of May 1,
1985, “My children, assemble. My heart is wounded. Do not allow My
heart to break because of your divisions.” In reading this I could not help
but think of the difficult times the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox
Patriarch of Moscow have had in even agreeing to meet.
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 93
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Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for
Promoting Christian Unity, in March, 2002 delivered an address in
which he said: “The more we come closer to one another, the more
painful is the experience of not yet being in full communion among our-
selves, which creates a certain dissatisfaction and frustration. . . . The
new generation of faithful and priests has not lived through the Council
and does not understand how things have changed.”
In this context, Cardinal Kasper mentioned three key challenges:
“In the first place, we must promote ecumenical formation and the
reception of ecumenical results. The results of ecumenical progress have
yet to penetrate the heart and flesh of our Church and of the other
Churches.”
“In the second place, we must clarify and renew the ecumenical
vision. We need a new ecumenical language and impulse. We run the
risk of losing a whole generation of youths if we are not capable of giv-
ing them a vision.”
Third, Cardinal Kasper appealed for the harmonizing of dialogue
and identity. In this context, he emphasized, “One can see what the
problem and advantages of ‘Dominus Iesus’ are, which highlighted the
question of identity.”
Dominus Iesus was the August, 2000 declaration by the Congre-
gation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the uniqueness and salvific uni-
versality of Jesus and the Church. Though criticized for sounding less
than ecumenical, it basically reiterated magisterial teaching on the
nature of the Catholic Church.
“We must underline clearly that serious ecumenism is something
totally different from confessional indifference and relativism; it tends to
gravitate around the highest common denominator,” Cardinal Kasper
states.
The Cardinal then reviewed the situation of relations between
Catholics and other Christian confessions and made some startling pro-
nouncements.
“We are increasingly conscious of the fact that an Orthodox Church
does not really exist,” he contended. “At the present stage, it does not
seem that Constantinople is yet capable of integrating the different
autocephalous Orthodox Churches; there are doubts about its primacy
of honor, especially in Moscow.”
He continued: “With Moscow, dialogue at the universal level at
present is very difficult; the situation is improving with Greece; in the
Middle East, in the territory of the ancient See of Antioch, the situation
is completely different and there already is almost full communion.”
This last statement was indeed precious. It reminded me of my inter-
view with the Patriarch of Antioch who said to me: “The only difference
[between Catholicism and Syriac Orthodox] was one of administration.”
It is indeed precious that in the very area where the Virgin’s House of
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Soufanieh is with a mission for Christian unity both the Patriarch of
Antioch and the Vatican recognize “there already is almost full com-
munion.” May that situation serve as a model for the rest of the world.
How sad if Christians who have a valid priesthood and Holy Eucharist
remain divided.
Cardinal Kasper said: “We must avoid giving the impression of
‘divide and conquer.’ We would engage in bad ecumenism if we created
new divisions in the other churches or confessional families, or if we
tended to a new form of ‘Uniatism.’ The latter—considered a pejorative
term in the East—signifies the Eastern Christians who left the Ortho-
dox Church to join Rome.
What is most important of all for Christian Unity is the opening of
hearts in love and prayer. “I pray, Father, that they may be one . . .” was
the prayer of Jesus at the First Eucharist and should still be ours today.
Returning to the messages which Fr. Zahlaoui pointed out to me
during our interview, if anyone would object to the words “educate my
generation” as hardly applicable for our Blessed Mother, I would
respond: Look at her prayer the Magnificat in St. Luke 1 where Mary
recites: “My soul does magnify the Lord. And my spirit has rejoiced in
God my Savior, because he has regarded the humility of his handmaid;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. God who
is mighty has done great things for me, holy is his name. His mercy is
from age to age on those who fear him. . . .”
Mary is Mother of the universal Church and every age, every gener-
ation is her generation. First, and foremost, every age, every generation is
Jesus Christ’s and Mary’s generation. Jesus is Lord of lords and King of
kings. Jeremiah 10:10 tells us: “But the Lord is the true God: he is the
living God, and the everlasting king. . . .” Jesus is the Lord of history, of
every age and generation. Every generation is His generation and He too,
like Mary, with whom He is inseparable, can speak of “my generation.”
It was obvious to me that Fr. Zahlaoui had meditated well the
accounts and messages of Soufanieh. Without hesitation he could quote,
and even pinpoint, the date of messages exactly. He went on in my inter-
view with him to say:
“Here in Syria, Mother Mary is important not only for Christians
but also for Muslims. Mary is the most important woman for Muslims.
This is why Muslims come to Soufanieh. Also, for Islam, Miriam is a
Virgin. This spirit of Mary brings everybody, Christian and Muslim,
together. It brings all kinds of Muslims together.
“The first healing was a Muslim.”
At this point Fr. Zahlaoui pointed out the account of the healing of
Raquille Kilta and the conversion of Dr. Jamil Marjithe to the events of
Soufanieh. [See chapter 4 for details.]
Fr. Zahlaoui then continued with the following observation:
“As 1830 began the Marian Era for the West, Soufanieh began the
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 95
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Myrna with author at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Damascus.
The author interviews Fr. Boulos (Paul) Fadel, Myrna’s spiritual director, as
Myrna listens and joins in.
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Marian Era for the East. But still, Soufanieh is for all the world. People
come from Egypt, India, Iran, etc. Fatima is now the great one in the
West and Myrna senses that Fatima is important. This indicates the
unity of all in Mary. We call Mary our Mother of ‘At-one-ment’
through Mary at Fatima. She is working to bring all Christians and
Muslims together in unity.
“It is clear from the first message given December 18, 1982. It is a
clear message to love everyone, even those who do bad to you. ‘I am ask-
ing 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. . . .’
“This message is important for all and especially in the Middle East
where there is much conflict.”
Fr. Zahlaoui’s insights and comparison with Fatima were very
meaningful to me as I have studied Fatima in depth and have written
countless articles and books. I have lectured on Fatima for years, having
founded the Fatima Family Apostolate. The message of Our Lady of
Fatima in the West is also for the entire world symbolized by the gold-
en ball that hangs near our Lady’s waist and under her Immaculate
Heart. Fatima is a call to love as Mary loved. It is a call to imitate the
virtues of Mary, the first and perfect Christian, she who is Mother and
Model of the Church.
Years ago theologians met at Fatima to discuss the essence of the
Fatima message. They came to the conclusion it was a call to devotion
to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and all that the Immaculate Heart of
Mary means. Fatima means love. I personally know, starting with ten
years ago when I first talked to Myrna by phone, her great love for Our
Lady of Fatima. Fatima came up again in my discussions with Myrna in
September, 2001.
“Do you think that when the message of Soufanieh becomes wide-
ly known in the Mid-East it can bring solutions to the violence and divi-
sions?” I asked Fr. Zahlaoui.
“It is the same as when Jesus came to earth to bring love and peace.
Mary comes at Soufanieh for the same purpose. If people would accept
the message and live it, then violence would end. The attack on the
World Trade Center and Pentagon, etc., on September 11, 2001,
changed politics in the Middle East. The whole world is looking at the
United States while Israel is killing Palestinians. No one seems to rec-
ognize that Israel’s politics fosters terrorists. Israel has been acting like
terrorists while America protects Israel. If people don’t accept the mes-
sage of Soufanieh for love and unity, the opposite is violence.”
“Can you explain this,” I asked Fr. Zahlaoui, “that the message given
by Jesus Christ at Soufanieh on April 14, 2001, Holy Week, said some-
thing about the Church being on the right track to unity, to follow it or
the doors would close?”
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“It does not say anything about the Church being on the right track
to unity but talks about unity of hearts. Here is what Jesus said in that
message:
“‘I have given you a sign for My glorification. Stay on your path, and
I am with you. 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.
“‘My children: Strive to see yourselves as you truly are, and to see the
extent of your faithfulness in achieving the unity of heart among your-
selves. Adorn yourself with patience and wisdom. Don’t be afraid if you
fail. Stay firm in hope. Trust Me. I will not abandon those who do My
will.’
“‘As for you, My daughter, be careful, and be armed with My grace.
Be patient, wise, and humble. Offer up these pains with joy. I have said
to you, ‘Your pains will not last long.’ Look to Me. You shall find peace
and rest. It is I who strengthen you. I who desert [literally, throw you],
and I who pick you up to lead you to the joy of heaven.’
“‘Persevere in prayer, and let your fasting be accompanied by medi-
tation and solitude, and you will hear My voice in your heart [literally,
inside you]. Trust Me. I will not abandon you, your family, or anyone
who participated with you in My name and for My sake.’”
C
“The message means,” said Fr. Zahlaoui, “that we have to contin-
ue with unity of hearts and then Jesus assured us that he will not leave
us. If we don’t do what Jesus said he will close the doors of heaven. But
there is a Mother (Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God) and she is
feeling so much pain, praying, interceding with Jesus, reminding Him,
‘You are all love.’”
It is good to reflect that Soufanieh is not only for Christians but for
Muslims too, as Fr. Zahlaoui has pointed out. Islam is one of the three great
Semitic religions, along with Judaism and Christianity. They share roots in
the Old Testament. The 99 attributes of God mentioned in the Koran are
likewise mentioned in the Bible. The Koran, as mentioned previously,
refers to Mary 34 times and is the only woman it names.
The pillars to Islam: 1) Declaration of Belief; 2) Prayer; 3) Fasting;
4) Almsgiving; 5) Pilgrimage to Mecca.
Islam in recent years has outpaced the growth of Christianity in the
United States. For the first time in history, recently the number of
Muslims throughout the world has exceeded the number of Catholics.
The simplicity of Islam and its members’ intense devotion have helped
its appeal. The convert to Catholicism, Peter Kreeft, has suggested in his
book Ecumenical Jihad, that “Islam is growing faster than Christianity in
America because Muslims want to be saints more than Christians do.”
Also, abortion, adultery, fornications, artificial contraceptions, steriliza-
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tion and euthanasia in countries they perceive to be Christian is a grave
scandal to Muslims.
When Pope John Paul II wrote the book, Crossing the Threshold of
Hope, he quoted the words from the Vatican Declaration Nostra Aetate
about those faithful to Islam: “The Church also has a high regard for the
Muslims, who worship one God, living and subsistent, merciful and
omnipotent, the Creator of heaven and earth.” The Pope went on to say
that as a result of their monotheism, “believers in Allah are particularly
close to us. . . . It is impossible not to admire their fidelity to prayer.
In using an analogy with Islam it can be said that Mary’s fiat (“Let
it be done to me according to your word”) is also her islam. You see, the
ethico-religious significance of the word Islam is the “entire surrender to
the will of God.” Muslim then means “those who have surrendered
themselves.” A Muslim is thus one who has surrendered himself to the
will of Allah (God).
Jihad, mentioned in the Koran, refers to a “Holy War” fought
against unbelievers. Mohammed when alive led Jihads against alien peo-
ple. Tribes that did not pledge their allegiance to Allah were often put
to the sword. The idea of Jihad has been controversial and of intense
concern to Christians for there have been Jihads against Christians
(Battle of Lepanto, etc.).
Mohammed claimed he had received a succession of divine revela-
tions given to him through the angel Gabriel and from this he founded
Islam in 611. At that time his people had been worshiping 360 gods, one
for each day of the Arabian year. The worship of one God became very
effective in unifying the various tribes of Arabia. Jews and Christians
were not willing to be converted to Islam and thus Mohammed spread
his teachings through military conquests.
Muslim extremists have killed Christians even in recent years. This
has been true of those slaughtered in the Moluccas and East Timor. In
the past 15-year-long war of the Sudanese Muslim government, it is
estimated that at least two million Christians have died, while many
have fled to other countries. Iran has tortured people who converted
from Islam to Christianity, etc. Saudi Arabia grants no religious freedom
to its 400,000 Catholic Philippine workers. Not a single Catholic church
exists in Saudi Arabia.
Some observations of the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-
1979), internationally known as a scholar, author and Catholic orator
throughout the world, may prove helpful concerning Mary and the
Moslems
. His cause in the Church is being promoted. The Pope met him
at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City about two months before his
death, October 2, 1979, and said to him: “You have written and spoken
well of the Lord Jesus. You are a loyal son of the Church.”
Many of Archbishop Sheen’s writings seem prophetic today,
approaching 25 years after his death.
C
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 99
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“The missionary effort of the Church toward this group has been,
at least on the surface, a failure, for the Moslems are so far almost uncon-
vertible. The reason is that for a follower of Mohammed to become a
Christian is much like a Christian becoming a Jew. The Moslems believe
that they have the final and definitive revelation of God to the world and
that Christ was only a prophet announcing Mohammed, the last of
God’s real prophets.
“. . . Although the statesmen have not yet taken it into account, there
is still grave danger that the temporal power of Islam may return and,
with it, the menace that it may shake off a West that has ceased to be
Christian and affirm itself as a great anti-Christian world power. . . .
“The Koran, which is the Bible of the Moslems, has many passages
concerning the Blessed Virgin. First of all, the Koran believes in her
Immaculate Conception and also in her Virgin Birth. The third chapter
of the Koran places the history of Mary’s family in a genealogy that goes
back through Abraham, Noah, and Adam. When one compares the
Koran’s description of the birth of Mary with the apocryphal gospel of
the birth of Mary, one is tempted to believe that Mohammed very much
depended upon the latter. Both books describe the old age and the def-
inite sterility of the mother of Mary. When, however, she conceives, the
mother of Mary is made to say in the Koran: ‘O Lord, I vow and I con-
secrate to you what is already within me. Accept it from me.’
“When Mary is born, the mother says: ‘And I consecrate her with
all of her posterity under thy protection, O Lord, against Satan!’
“The Koran passes over Joseph in the life of Mary, but the Moslem
tradition knows his name and has some familiarity with him. In this tra-
dition, Joseph is made to speak to Mary, who is a virgin. As he inquired
how she conceived Jesus without a father, Mary answered: ‘Do you now
know that God when He created the wheat, had no need of seed, and
that God by His power made the trees grow without the help of rain?
All that God had to do was to say, “So be it,” and it was done.’
“The Koran also has verses on the Annunciation, Visitation, and
Nativity. Angels are pictured as accompanying the Blessed Mother and
saying: ‘Oh, Mary, God has chosen you and purified you, and elected
you above all the women of the earth.’ In the 19th chapter of the Koran
there are 41 verses on Jesus and Mary. There is such a strong defense of
the virginity of Mary here that the Koran, in the fourth book, attributes
the condemnation of the Jews to their monstrous calumny against the
Virgin Mary.
“Mary, then, is for the Moslems the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only
possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter
of Mohammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Mohammed
wrote: ‘Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after
Mary.’ In a variant of the text, Fatima is made to say: ‘I surpass all the
women, except Mary.’
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“This brings us to our second point, namely what the Blessed
Mother, in this 20th century, should have revealed herself in the
insignificant little village of Fatima, so that to all future generations she
would be known as Our Lady of Fatima. Since nothing ever happens
out of Heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the
Blessed Virgin chose to be known as “Our Lady of Fatima” as a pledge
and a sign of hope to the Moslem people and as an assurance that they,
who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too.
“Evidence to support these views is found in the historical fact that
the Moslems occupied Portugal for centuries. At the time when they
were finally driven out, the last Moslem chief had a beautiful daughter
by the name of Fatima. A Catholic boy fell in love with her, and for him
she not only stayed behind when the Moslems left but even embraced
the Faith. The young husband was so much in love with her that he
changed the name of the town where he lived to Fatima. Thus the very
place where Our Lady appeared in 1917 bears a historical connection to
Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed.
“The final evidence of the relationship of the village of Fatima to the
Moslems is the enthusiastic reception that the Moslems in Africa and
India and elsewhere gave to the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima,
as mentioned earlier. Moslems attended the church services in honor of
Our Lady; they allowed religious processions and even prayers before
their mosques; and in Mozambique the Moslems, who were unconvert-
ed, began to be Christian as soon as the statue of Our Lady of Fatima
was erected.
“Missionaries in the future will, more and more, see that their apos-
tolate among the Moslems will be successful in the measure that they
preach Our Lady of Fatima. Mary is the advent of Christ, bringing
Christ to the people before Christ Himself is born. In any apologetic
endeavor, it is always best to start with that which people already accept.
Because the Moslems have a devotion to Mary, our missionaries should
be satisfied merely to expand and to develop that devotion, with the full
realization that Our Blessed Lady will carry the Moslems the rest of the
way to her Divine Son. She is forever a ‘traitor’ in the sense that she will
not accept any devotion for herself, but will always bring anyone who is
devoted to her to her Divine Son. As those who lose devotion to her lose
belief in the Divinity of Christ, so those who intensify devotion to her
gradually acquire that belief.
“Many of our great missionaries in Africa have already broken down
the bitter hatred and prejudices of the Moslems against the Christ
through their acts of charity, their schools and hospitals. It now remains
to use another approach, namely, that of taking the forty-first chapter of
the Koran and showing them that it was taken out of the Gospel of
Luke, that Mary could not be, even in their own eyes, the most blessed
of all women of Heaven if she had not also borne One Who was the
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 101
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Savior of the world. If Judith and Esther of the Old Testament were pre-
figures of Mary, then it may very well be that Fatima herself was a post-
figure of Mary! The Moslems should be prepared to acknowledge that
if Fatima must give way in honor to the Blessed Mother, it is because
she is different from all the other mothers of the world and that with-
out Christ she would be nothing.”
[Quotes above are from The World’s First Love]
C
“Are you the special Spiritual Director for Myrna?” I asked Fr.
Zahlaoui. “No. Fr. Malouli (now deceased) had a close spiritual rela-
tionship. We sometimes traveled with Myrna.”
“The Pope has worked so hard for unity between Orthodox and
Catholics. Does Pope John Paul II know about Soufanieh?”
“Yes,” answered Fr. Zahlaoui. “There have been papal nuncios in
Damascus, all of whom were aware. There was Bishop Nicolas Rotunno
(1987). [As the author of this book, I had become somewhat acquaint-
ed with Bishop Rotunno who then came to the United States for health
reasons. He wrote the preface to the Fatima Family Apostolate’s book,
The Song of Three Shepherds, written by James Hardiman and which is
currently being considered for a major movie on Fatima, to be produced
in Mexico.]
“Other papal nuncios aware of Soufanieh, who acted favorably,
were: Bishop Luigi Accogli (1987-1996); Bishop Pier Giacomo De
Nicolo, until 1999.
“Bishop Luigi Accogli on October 15, 1999, in Rome consecrated
the Center of Our Lady of Soufanieh for the unity of Christians and for
interreligious dialogue.”
How has being so close to the messages and events of Soufanieh
changed Fr. Elias Zahlaoui as a priest? He answers, “A lot, yet very lit-
tle.” He is, it seems, a complex person, which means, he is deep. The
priest says that for him he now more fully understands that all initiatives
always come from God. He now realizes that often the Lord has taken
hold of him and this for a long time throughout his life.
Humbly, Fr. Elias says: “I am not seeking to glorify myself. I even
have the impression that I have been an obstacle to Soufanieh, for a lot
of people, and perhaps even for the high-ranking clergymen. Because I
am against the major trend in the Church, not only of Damascus, but of
all my community in the Middle East. And this is not to my credit. I
have had a kind of intuition. The Lord certainly has a lot to do with it,
probably with everything, and I have thought that I am able to follow
this intuition. . . .”
Fr. Zahlaoui sees Soufanieh as having liberated him, and allowed
him to ignore almost anything. “Of course, I have my personal weak-
nesses. And I sometimes reproach Jesus for not having delivered me
from them. Each one of us, as St. Paul, has a splinter in the body. But
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aside from that, Soufanieh has been for me like an immersion in God.
A kind of immersion, already in eternity. But an immersion that also
forced me to see reality in all its misery and to face this mysterious and
painful question: ‘But Lord, if you love man so much, why do you allow
so much misery?’ A question that every man asks, that even children ask.
I still ask myself this question. Consequently, I try to answer it through
my misery and my pettiness. Prayers have assumed a place in my life, not
a large place but a little more than before. In the past, I had a hunger for
prayer. But I wasn’t responding to it. I used to let the work devour too
much of me. I ardently wish to serve young people. And when you serve
them, you need 48 hours in a day!
“However, since the beginning, Soufanieh has made me keenly feel
the futility of our human efforts for the service of God, and the necessi-
ty of prayer. I told my bishop, on December 30, 1982, at the beginning
of the phenomenon: ‘Your Grace, I feel that I have to leave everything,
to simply go and live in a cave and pray. Only God is capable of doing
something.’ He answered me, ‘Fr. Elias, the day that the Lord wants you
to do so, he will give you a sign, but for now, we need you.’
“So I have tried to pray more . . . Even if, for now, I do not always
manage to have intense times of prayer, I feel the need to pray. . . .
“On the other hand, Soufanieh has really liberated me. Because for
years, the phenomenon of Soufanieh put me in real confrontation with
the Church, and with the society, which, in my country, despite its prac-
tical materialism, is very dependent on the Church. People— in our psy-
chological structure—are like a pyramid. They depend on the top of the
social pyramid. And if the one at the top does not give a sign, the mass
does not move forward very much. . . .
“The messages of Soufanieh have brought about another very deep
change. Because of these messages, people have henceforth realized that
we no longer have the right to remain divided. We no longer have the
right. The sin of division must cease. Besides, many people have started
to say that enough is enough. Why are we divided and why do we main-
tain the division? Is there some truly theological reason, or is this simply
a matter of ancient history?
“Unfortunately, among the clergy, some still seem to cling to what
they believe to be privileges. But on the whole, despite some exceptions,
as far as I can observe among my numerous friends in Damascus and
elsewhere, the laity has by far exceeded the clergy in communion with
the One Christ.
“Our desire now, what we work for, is precisely this minimum asked
for Jesus and Mary, which is unification of the feast of Easter. For us, the
unification of the feast of Easter is very symbolic. Without Easter, Chris-
tianity would not exist. St. Paul said so (cf. 1 Cor. 15:17). Also, how could
we admit that Easter, which is the starting point of all Christianity, is now
the symbol of the division of Christians? . . . How can we admit that? All
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 103
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the more so since we know full well that the basis of this difference of
dates is not a question of theology. It is a matter of the calendar. But,
throughout this question of the calendar, there is an old historical conflict
between the East and the West, a history of privileges to maintain, of
prestige to safeguard, etc. We do not have the right to do so.”
The last evening I was in Damascus, at Soufanieh, having celebrat-
ed the Sacrifice of the Mass on the terrace where the apparitions of the
Virgin have taken place—and I was speaking strongly and mentioned
that the Church needs to celebrate Easter at the same time and the rest
will follow—Fr. Elias Zahlaoui looked at me very pleased and nodded
consent. Shortly thereafter the miracle of the oil, told elsewhere in this
book, took place.
Perhaps Fr. Zahlaoui is too hard on himself for when I interviewed
Patriarch Gregory III Laham—Melkite Patriarch on Soufanieh—while
he graciously received me he also referred me to Fr. Elias Zahlaoui for
more detailed information on Soufanieh.
Since 1986, Fr. Zahlaoui has periodically issued bulletins or collec-
tive letters to people in many countries to keep people informed on
events connected with Soufanieh. Below are given some brief excerpts
from Fr. Zahlaoui’s different bulletins through the years. A major book
would be needed to publish in English all that he has written of events
connected with Our Lady of Soufanieh.
Damascus, December 13, 1986:
“I am happy to tell you briefly what happened during the fourth
anniversary, on November 26, 1986.
“On the morning of November 26th, oozing of oil from the Icon at
4:30, after an interruption of exactly one year, to the day, in the evening,
during prayer, the ecstasy occurs. . . . On the morning of the 27th, the
oil oozes again from the Icon, to such an extent that the marble cupola
underneath it is about to fill up. It is as if the Virgin Mary is immersed
in oil.”
Damascus, December 2, 1987:
“Most of you are informed about the extraordinary events that we
lived for five years in Damascus, thanks to what is now called Our Lady
of Soufanieh.
On November 20, 1987, immediately after the common prayer that
has not been interrupted since November 27, 1982, oil starts oozing
from the Holy Icon nearly filling entirely the marble container placed
under it. A French group, led by Mr. Pierre Sorin, of Mayenne,
witnessed it, along with the numerous faithful who were in the house. It
was the vigil of the feast of the presentation of the Holy Virgin in the
Temple.”
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Paris—June 1989:
[Below are excerpts of Myrna’s trip to the United States and hap-
penings in Los Angeles.]
Fifth anniversary of Soufanieh (November 26-27, 1987)
On the 26th, in the evening, in the midst of prayers, Myrna fell into
ecstasy. This was preceded and accompanied with an abundant oozing
of oil from her face and hands, in the presence, among others, of Fr.
René Laurentin who had been especially invited for the occasion (fifth
anniversary).
At the end of the ecstasy, Myrna dictated the following message:
“My daughter,
I am pleased that you have chosen Me, not only in words.
I want you to join My Heart to your gentle heart so that our hearts
will unite. By doing so, you will save suffering souls.
Do not hate anyone, so that your heart not be blinded by your love
of Me. Love everyone as you have loved Me, especially those who have
hated you and have spoken evil of you, because in so doing you will
obtain glory.
Continue in your life as wife, mother and sister.
Do not worry about the difficulties and the pain that will afflict you.
I want you to be stronger than them — because I am with you—other-
wise you will lose My heart.
Go and preach to the whole world and tell them without fear to
work for unity. Man is not condemned for the fruit of his hands, but for
the fruit of his heart.
My peace in your heart will be a blessing for you and for all those
who have cooperated with you.”
Myrna’s and Nicolas’s visit to the United States:
Oil oozed on reproductions of Our Lady of Soufanieh in two
churches only: a Greek-Orthodox one (parish of Fr. Paul Romley) and
a Greek Catholic one (parish of Fr. Charles Aboody). As we know,
Myrna is Greek Catholic and Nicolas is Greek-Orthodox.
On the evening of August 14, 1988, Myrna fell into ecstasy just after
Holy Communion, which she received during the Holy Mass celebrated
by two priests, one of whom was the Maronite priest Georges Khalli. The
oil flooded her face and her hands throughout the ecstasy. When she came
out of ecstasy, she dictated the following message from Jesus:
“My children,
My peace I gave you, but what have you given Me?
You are My Church and your heart belongs to Me, unless this heart has a
god other than Me. I told you: The Church is the kingdom of Heaven on earth.
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 105
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He who has divided it has sinned. And he who has rejoiced from its division
has also sinned.
It is easier for Me (to accept) that an infidel believe in My name than
that those who pretend to have faith and love swear by My name.
It is in God alone that you must place your pride.
Pray for the sinners who forgive in My name, and for those who deny My
Mother. My children, I have given you all of My time, give Me a part of your
time.
More than several hundred persons attended the Mass and the
ecstasy, a number of whom were doctors who examined and observed
Myrna, as is the custom in Damascus.
On the evening of September 7, the eve of the Feast of the Nativity
of the Virgin Mary, in the midst of a common prayer, she fell into ecsta-
sy. When she came out of it, she relayed the following message:
“My daughter,
I told you to overcome all your difficulties and know that you have
endured only a few. Tell My children that it is from them that I demand unity,
and I do not want it from those who act as if they were working for unity.
Go and preach. And wherever you go, I am with you.”
November 15, 1989 (in Damascus):
1. The daily prayer is as regular as always. It is held in absolute sim-
plicity and gratuitousness. We note that some Moslems attend some-
times side by side with Christians from all confessions.
2. Since the eve of November 27, 1988, not one drop of oil has
oozed from the Holy Icon. On the other hand, the three drops that were
hanging at the bottom of the frame since that night are still there.
3. Furthermore, oil continues to appear frequently on the hands of
Myrna, either during prayer or during a conversation on Soufanieh.
4. Myrna has been invited once more to the United States. She has
spent nearly two months there with her husband, leaving her two chil-
dren in Damascus. She has visited Detroit, Los Angeles, San Jose,
Glendale and the Ukrainian monastery of Mount Tabor in Redwood
Valley near Sacramento. Everywhere, oil has manifested itself on her
hands, in numerous churches where she has prayed, and this in the pres-
ence of priests belonging to different “churches,” as well as numerous
houses. Oil has also oozed from many reproductions of Our Lady of
Soufanieh. This double sign has no doubt triggered an intense move-
ment of prayer.
5. In Los Angeles, on August 18, Myrna fell into ecstasy, in a pri-
vate house in the presence of about 50 persons who came to pray.
During this ecstasy, oil oozed from the face and hands of Myrna. She
saw the Virgin Mary whom she had not seen since the ecstasy of the
evening of August 14, 1985. She dictated to her the following message:
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“Do not fear, My daughter. All this is happening to glorify the name of
God. Rejoice, rather, because God has allowed you to come to Me so that I can
tell you: Do not worry about what people say about you, but remain always
in peace because the creatures turn towards Me through you. Tell everyone to
pray more because they need prayer to please the Father. May the blessings of
God be upon you and upon all those who have cooperated with you out of love
for Him.”
In Aleppo (Syria’s second largest city):
Aleppo is located 350 km. north of Damascus. I had already advised
you that oil was oozing out of four pictures, two of which represent Our
Lady of Soufanieh, in two Armenian houses respectively since January
1988 and early July 1988. Public prayer is held in alternation, at the
rhythm of three days per week and always in the strictest gratuity.
I was able to see the oil ooze in Aleppo on several occasions and in
both houses. But on October 1, the day of the feast of St. Gregory the
Illuminator, patron of Armenia, I saw the oil oozing in one of the two
houses from three pictures at the same time, under the eyes of the pray-
ing crowd, and in the presence of Fr. Emile Assouad who was leading
the prayers.
Damascus, April 15, 1990:
This Holy Week, friends have come from a bit of everywhere:
France, Belgium, the United States, Canada, Germany, Jordan, Egypt,
Lebanon, Syria of course and even from Burkina-Faso. Most of them
came in the hope that “something” would happen under their own eyes,
since this year Easter was common to all Christians. They were not dis-
appointed.
On Holy Thursday, at 11 o’clock, the stigmata appeared, first on the
forehead, then on the hands and onto the feet and the side of Myrna.
Numerous persons, including doctors, were present and were literally on
the lookout for the least gesture and word of Myrna. This enabled film-
ing on video the various stages.
On Holy Saturday, at 3:10 p.m., oil started oozing from the fore-
head, the eyes and the hands of Myrna. Then came the ecstasy, during
which Myrna saw a light and heard a deep and calm voice telling her:
“My children, you yourselves will teach the generations the WORD of
unity, love and faith. I am with you. But you, My daughter, will not hear My
voice until the Feast has been unified.”
On Easter day, at dawn, towards 4:30, the marble cupola located
under the Holy Icon, was found to be three-quarters full.
It goes without saying that personal or public prayers went on with-
out interruption, especially during Holy Week.
Several telephone calls from France, the United States and Canada,
assured us about their simultaneous prayers in unison with Soufanieh.
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 107
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
July 1, 1991:
Since November 1990, let me point out especially the permanence
of prayer at Soufanieh as well as the numerous exudations of oil from the
hands of Myrna (as had been promised by the Holy Virgin during her
message of November 26, 1990) and from the various reproductions of
the Miraculous Icon.
I am happy to tell you that I met in Damascus on the 10th the
Syrian Orthodox bishop of Mosul (Iraq), Msgr. Isaak Saka. He assured
me that a reproduction of Our Lady of Soufanieh was exuding oil since
the beginning of January 1991, in a modest Christian house in Mosul.
He has visited that house and witnessed the oozing of oil.
Prayer meetings, with groupings of Christians and Moslems alike,
have been organized, and as always, in absolute gratuitousness. Early
June, His Excellency had left Mosul for a short while. Nonetheless, the
oil kept on oozing. On June 12, Msgr. Saka gave me his written and
signed testimony.
You know by now that my memoirs on Soufanieh have been pub-
lished in Arabic, in a voluminous book of 580 pages. It also includes 137
pages of meditations emanating from an Arab intellectual, Mr. Antoine
Makdisi. It is distributed freely.
September 9—October 3, 1991 (Myrna’s trip to Germany, Belgium,
Holland and France):
Purposes of the trip—The first goal was the holding of a three-day
symposium on Soufanieh, in Münster in Germany. This idea was that
of a German priest, of Lebanese origin, after his first journey in
Damascus, at the time of the seventh anniversary of Soufanieh, on the
last week of November, 1989. He is Fr. Professor Adel Theodore
Khoury, dean of the faculty of theology of Münster. This symposium
would be preceded and followed by a small prayer tour through
Germany. This date was set for between September 11-14, 1991. . . .
A question could be asked: Has anything special occurred during
this symposium outside the usual program during the journey? YES,
what happened was the oozing of oil; once from a picture of Our Lady
of Soufanieh, and 26 times from Myrna’s hands, in Germany as well as
in Belgium, Holland, and France.
Damascus, September 29, 1993:
I shall happily enclose with this letter the report of our mission trips
to France and Canada. This will help us all to strengthen our unity of
heart and prayer.
And since you are used to entrusting yourself to the prayers of your
Arab brothers and sisters of Soufanieh, I come to you today in order to
also solicit your prayers for our personal intentions, as well as for the two
major intentions that Jesus and Mary have entrusted us with in
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Soufanieh: The Unity of the Church and Peace in the world, especially
in the Near East. Thank you so heartily.
Before wishing you the best, I would like to advise you that a small
chapel has been built on the terrace of the Apparitions in Soufanieh. Its
inauguration, celebrated on the 26th, has been followed by abundant
exudation of oil from the hands of Myrna. [Fr. Robert J. Fox, author,
offered the Sacrifice of the Mass in this small chapel on the final evening
of his stay at the House of the Virgin of Soufanieh, September 2001.
The miracle of the oil occurred at the conclusion of this Mass.]
Furthermore, you will be glad to know also that Myrna has just
come back from a month sojourn in Australia at the invitation of Msgr.
Georges Riachi, Greek-Catholic bishop of Australia. He had come per-
sonally to Damascus in order to take her there. Only Fr. Boulos Fadel
accompanied her. We were told that it was extraordinary. They spent one
whole month, from August 19 to September 20. Praise the Lord.
Summary of Australian 1993 pilgrimage:
The most moving aspect of Myrna’s mission consisted in the great
number of people flocking into churches. She brought about and exper-
imented a popular and religious revolution through which Australia
never went before. Peaceful revolution aiming toward prayer and the
unity of the church. In each church, she was able to bring together faith-
ful from various rites, believing in unity. Even Moslems were present. I
shall not forget the tears of men, women and youth alike when Myrna
was talking or when the oil was exuding. I shall not forget what the
crowd was singing at the Church of St. Charbel during Myrna’s last
encounter before her return to Syria. . . .
When the Lord says “a good tree bears good fruit,” this applies to
Soufanieh, in general and to her mission to Australia in particular. Its
fruits are prayer, conversion, penance, faith revival, increase of charity, a
more acute awareness that the unity of the Church is the responsibility
of each of its members and that this unity must first pass through unity
of hearts and love. . . .
In the evening (August 25, 1993), a Mass was held at the Latin
Church of St. Thomas. . . . At the end of the Mass, Myrna was asked to
relate her experience of the phenomenon. Msgr. Riachi translated. This
is briefly what she said: “If you have come to see a miracle, this miracle
has already occurred when the priest has converted the bread and wine
into the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus. If you came to seek God,
I tell you that he is within each of you. If you come to learn how to love
God, I would tell you ‘Love one another.’ Your being together is the mir-
acle. Myrna is an ordinary person. She is even inferior to you. I do not
know why God has chosen me. What I am doing is what the Virgin
Mary did when she said, ‘I am the servant of the Lord,’ so I pave the way
to let God operate in me.
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“The Virgin Mary does not belong to Myrna alone, but she
belongs to each of us, which means that each of us is endowed with a
mission. Pray for unity and peace. Pray for me so that I fulfill my mis-
sion as God wills. My love for my mission has made me leave my hus-
band and my children. . . . God does not need any media to confirm
what He wants. . . . God needs us. Pray for the divided families because
the family is a small church.”
The people applauded at the end and then came up to be blessed
with oil from Soufanieh.
In summary, the mission of Myrna has had its impact on tens of
thousands of faithful. What the Lord has started in a modest house of
Damascus, will one day spread to the whole world. The impact that
Soufanieh leaves everywhere in the world is nothing but a sign that it is
not a human work, regardless of how much people strive to make it a
success.
Signed: Fr. Paul Fadel
(See p. 145 for an interview.)
Brief Recapitulation of Myrna’s 1993 stay in Canada
The official line included the celebrations of the Eucharist which
took place in different churches of Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec. For
one who could closely follow the many meetings and celebrations, it
would appear that a spiritual avalanche fell on the slopes of St. Joseph
Oratory, where the first prayer with Myrna took place and also on most
of the churches and congregations of the regions, stopping only with
Myrna’s departure.
As for the second line, which I would label as domestic, it includes
the countless meetings at the house where Myrna and her family were
welcomed in Montreal. It is the home of Mr. Emile Sara and his wife
Marie. This house was also a replica of the Virgin’s House in Damascus.
This welcome for personal meetings with Myrna or for group prayers or
for celebrations of the Eucharist was expressed day and night with great
simplicity and joyfulness.
This resting-place was even spontaneously offered to some of
Myrna’s and Nicolas’s many friends who came from different parts of the
United States (Los Angeles, Detroit, Florida, San Francisco). The
celebrations of the Eucharist and priests of different Oriental congrega-
tions, Catholic as well as Orthodox (without offending in any way the
rule of ecclesiastic authorities concerning communicatio in sacris), gath-
ered the faithful from all places who had but one concern: find God in
the Unity of His Church.
The few prayer meetings, in which Myrna took part in other homes,
occurred with the same simplicity and communion. Thank God signs
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from heaven were not absent. The first in importance is the exudation of
oil from Myrna’s hands. While the Eucharist was celebrated, the oil
invariably exuded during Holy Communion. But we waited imperative-
ly for the end of the Divine Liturgy before announcing it.
The same thing happened again and again . . . in many homes, at
moments we cannot but consider as providential. Beyond this tangible
sign, there are many more we would certainly regret not having noticed.
To my mind, the astonishing affluence of a crowd, mostly Canadians, is
one worth mentioning. Behind a facade of self-sufficiency, perhaps even
indifference, isn’t there a sign of a deep quest for God? Also, I see anoth-
er sign in the quality and length of the prayers. Isn’t there a cry for spir-
itual hunger which all the imperatives of this famous consumer society
has not yet succeeded to kill? There are even more signs of the bursting
joy of many who experienced internal and spiritual healing.
However, without exaggerating, it seems to me and to many wit-
nesses, that the most important sign is Myrna herself. Whether she
prays, relates her experience or whether she is silent or busy taking care
of her children or husband, Myrna is always consistent with herself: sim-
ple, humble with a total gratuitousness and availability. Such a sign does
not lie and testimonies on this matter are numerous. Some people were
pleased and had the courage to write about this.
Damascus, December 1, 1994 (12th Anniversary):
Worth mentioning also is the arrival of many pilgrims: from the
Arab world of course, but also from Australia, Canada, the United
States, France (a record of three groups), the Ivory Coast, Greece, Switz-
erland, Guinea and Egypt.
Letters, telegrams, faxes and telephone calls from Australia, Canada,
the United States, France, Egypt, New Caledonia, Switzerland, Puerto
Rico, Colombia, Peru, Germany, Holland and even from Saudi Arabia.
We can literally say that the Virgin Mary’s impact is spreading like
a stain of oil—and how!
Finally, the 12th anniversary was celebrated by a big family scattered
throughout the world with the little family of Soufanieh. This celebration
consisted merely of prayers. Isn’t praying the mere essence of Soufanieh?
Friday, November 25, Bishop George Coueter, Greek-Catholic
bishop of Sidon (South Lebanon), concelebrated the Divine Liturgy in
St. Cyrillus Church in Damascus, along with the other priests. A com-
pact and feverish crowd filled up the church, at the head of which one
could see the Nuncio, His Excellency Msgr. Pier Giacomo de Nicolo.
A large Icon of Soufanieh adorned with flowers stood in front of the
Iconostasis. The sign of the oil, so long awaited—let’s be frank about
it—appeared quite soon: during Communion, both hands of Myrna
exuded so much oil that drops fell on the floor. Nevertheless, the Mass
carried on with an overwhelming calm.
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 111
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Once the Divine Liturgy was over, the people were about to receive
the unction of the oil from the hands of Myrna, in front of the main gate
of the church while Choeur-Joie was singing the hymns inspired by
Soufanieh. The homily of Msgr. Coueter, after the Gospel, was full of
the message of Soufanieh, centered around Unity, based on prayer, love
and mutual forgiveness.
I am happy to mention that just before Mass, I accompanied Msgr.
Coueter in his visit to His Holiness Zakka I, the Syrian-Orthodox
Patriarch. This visit which lasted over one hour centered around the sub-
ject of Unity. Everyone knows that His Holiness is a big promoter of
Soufanieh. [Fr. Elias Zahlaoui accompanied Fr. Fox, author, to interview
this same Patriarch in September, 2001 as shown elsewhere in this
book.]
Sunday November 27 (Anniversary Day of Soufanieh):
I was celebrating the baptism of a small Lebanese girl. Myrna had
been requested to be her Godmother and Fr. Paul Fadel, the Godfather.
Just at the end of the ceremony, while we were singing the well-known
hymn celebrating Christ’s baptism, oil covered both hands of Myrna.
On Monday, the 28th, a group of Greek pilgrims visited Soufanieh
accompanied by a relative of Nicolas who lives in Greece, namely his
cousin Samir Iliovits. They stayed there until after midnight. At the
moment Samir Iliovits was narrating to them the opening of stigmatas
on the body of Myrna and was showing them the palms of Myrna’s
hands where the stigmatas had appeared, oil literally pulsed from both
her hands. I let you imagine the emotion of the Greeks. Some of them
fell on their knees and wept.
On Wednesday, a friend whose family lives in Canada, phoned to
tell me that oil had exuded from an enlarged image of Our Lady of
Soufanieh in Canada on the same day of the feast, and this during the
prayers that the “Children of Soufanieh” over there, were reciting in the
house of Emile and Marie Sara who had received Myrna and her fami-
ly during their stay in Canada ( June-July 1993).
Will we ever thank enough our Lord Jesus and His Mother, full of
grace, for so many of these signs that are nothing else but the signature,
so to speak, of His Presence and His Love?
Permanence of the message of the Holy Virgin of November 26, 1990:
“As for the oil, it will continue to appear on your hands for the glorifica-
tion of my Son Jesus, whenever He wishes and wherever you go . . . Because
We are with you and with whoever wishes the Feast to be united.”
As a matter of fact, oil appears frequently on the hands of Myrna, in
the house itself or far away from home, when Myrna is traveling. We
make it a point to record it regularly and [the late] Fr. Maloui is [was] a
very faithful observer of this phenomenon.
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Permanent welcoming in the strictest gratuity:
The house (of the Virgin or Nazzour family) remains always open,
and throughout the day, to anyone, and with a permanent gratuity which
continues to defy all slanders and calumnies. The welcome remains sim-
ple, frank and discreet at the same time. . . . Among the countless visitors,
one should mention the Nuncio, Pier Giacomo de Nicolo, Georges
Coueter, Greek-Catholic bishop of Sidon, Lebanon, and Georges
Riachi, Greek-Catholic bishop of Australia. The latter expressed his very
strong wish to see Myrna come back to Australia for a second stay, since
the first one had proved so fruitful.
In Chicago, a New Soufanieh—Since July 14, 1994, an enlarged pic-
ture of Our Lady of Soufanieh exudes oil, without interruption, in the
house of Mr. Daoud Hanna, a Syrian-Orthodox family originally from
Hasake in Syria. The house has become a shrine for thousands of pil-
grims from the United States and Canada, and this in the strictest gra-
tuity.
Damascus, December 22, 1995 (Celebration of the 13th anniversary):
On Saturday, the 25th, his Excellency, Isidore Battikha, Greek
Catholic Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus, celebrated the Anniversary
Mass in the Church of Our Lady of Damascus. The bishop’s homily
centered around the Unity of the Church, on the basis of the messages
of Soufanieh. It was a very touching homily and a lot of people were very
moved by it, while others could not contain their tears, including the
bishop himself. During Holy Communion, oil exuded from Myrna’s
hands abundantly. She anointed during 45 minutes all the faithful pres-
ent. Throughout the evening, prayers continued at the House of the
Virgin until two o’clock in the morning.
On Sunday, the 26th, the prayer in the House of the Virgin began at
4:45 p.m. Faithful, friends and supporters overflowed into the street. . . .
At 7:45, just as the first prayer program was concluding, oil suddenly and
abundantly covered Myrna’s face, eyes and hands. She remained several
minutes absent from the exterior world, helped by Fr. Johannes Touw and
two young people. When she finally recovered, she happily anointed with
the oil on their foreheads the people who were present.
At 11:00, I celebrated the Holy Mass with Fr. Paul Fadel. Then we
all sang “happy birthday” to the Virgin Mary while cutting the anniver-
sary cake. I left the House of the Virgin at 1:30 and it was still crowded
with people. . . .
You know that Myrna receives numerous invitations, but she final-
ly travels little. Before accepting any invitation, we pray a lot and we seek
advice. If we ever discover the least risk of deviation or opposition to the
purpose of Soufanieh, we politely apologize and refuse the invitation,
even if it is at the last minute, as was the case in 1994 for the journey to
the United States, and in 1993, to Puerto Rico.
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Currently, there are numerous invitations: Poland, Switzerland,
Canada, Germany, Rome and Sweden. However, two journeys are
planned at the moment: France (end March 1996) and the United
States, during June 1996.
Soufanieh Breakthroughs—In the scientific surroundings:
You know the scientific milieu is very allergic to phenomena like
Soufanieh. You also know that some people hide themselves behind sci-
ence, attempting to silence such phenomena, or to await an explanation
from science one day. However, Soufanieh was the object of numerous
researches led by scientists, some of which came with a critical prejudice,
and then found themselves kneeling at the foot of the Icon, weeping.
Some scientists have been conquered by Soufanieh, to the extent of
presenting Soufanieh in their scientific circles. One among them, psy-
choanalyst Andre Pastalides, has presented the phenomena at an interna-
tional congress held in Santa Rosa, in California (USA), in October
1988. That was also the case with Dr. Johannes Touw, a Dutch
Benedictine monk, who presented the phenomenon during two hours at
a convention of psychology, held from July 12 to July 16, 1995 at
Innsbruck, Austria.
C
On Myrna’s and Nicolas’s Discreet Silence:
If you allow me, the fact that Myrna occupies the first rank in
Soufanieh, is not her fault, given that she did nothing to deserve it and
that she never wanted it to be so.
Anyone knowing Soufanieh would also know that Nicolas is an
essential element of Soufanieh, although in the background. He is not
offended by it at all; as a matter of fact he is very happy about it, and
considers himself “out of the picture” sincerely.
But is was necessary that he realize one day that it is not so, and that
he has something to say about what he has gone through, and is still
experiencing in Soufanieh. He accepted therefore to write his memoirs. I
was astonished about what he wrote in draft form, and trust me, it is
quite enlightening. But Nicolas insists that not everything is to be
known now.
Damascus, December 19, 1997:
A Declaration issued by His Excellency, Msgr. Isidore Battikha,
Greek-Catholic Patriarchal Vicar.
During the solemn Mass he celebrated on Sunday, November 25,
1996, in St. Joseph’s Church, in the parish of Douela in Damascus, dur-
ing the 14th anniversary of Soufanieh, Msgr. Isidore started his homily
with the following words:
“My beloved ones: This evening, before celebrating Mass, I was thinking
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about what the Samaritans had told the Samaritan woman: “It is not because
of your words that we believe, but because we have heard Him and we have
been convinced that it is really He, Christ, the Savior of the world. We too,
Myrna, we do not believe because of your words only, but also because we have
heard and seen what has happened and is still happening in this good and holy
town of Damascus. This is, very simply, a message from heaven.”
November 26, 1997 (15th Anniversary Celebration):
“In the house of the Virgin” on Wednesday, November 26, prayers
started at 5:00 p.m. and continued until 11:00. The Mass was celebrated at
11:00 p.m. by Msgr. Georges Riachi. Present were many priests including
the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency, Msgr. Pier Giacomo de Nicolo.
At the end of the Mass, Myrna was asked to sing a special hymn: “The
children of Mary are divided: they must not remain so.” But before she
started singing, and although her fists were clasped, oil was pouring out of
her hands onto the wood of the lectern on which she was asked to stand.
I cannot find anything better than to select some paragraphs from the
homily of Msgr. Khalil Abi-Nader during the Mass of November 28:
“The surprising fact is that the Almighty has chosen and continues to
choose the simple ones, the weak, the poor and the humble, starting with His
Mother Mary, Joseph the carpenter, the Apostle fishermen, all the way to
Bernadette the shepherd from Lourdes as well as the shepherds from Fatima,
to finish with our dear Myrna, with a humble heart, through the holy oil, so
that they carry His message to the world in order to relay His will.
O Mother, Our Lady of Soufanieh, strengthened with your blessing, we
say: it is only politics which has divided, scattered, spread and blown up the
Church into churches and factions. As for Catholics and Orthodox, we have
together one same faith which we incarnate every day on the Altar of the Lord,
when we say: “This is My body, this is My blood” and when we express one
same veneration for the Virgin Mary. This is enough for us. What remains
does not concern us, we the worshippers. It concerns the professionals of politics
and theology.
O Jesus, we suffer from our divisions. O Mary, through your intercession
we will obtain through Jesus, as in Cana, the greatest and most beautiful
miracle: The Unity of the Church. Then the flock will become one, with one
Shepherd, Jesus.
O Jesus, I love you.
O Mary, Our Lady of Soufanieh, or rather Our Lady of the Universal
Church, I love you. Your daughter, Myrna, with a humble heart, loves you.
She has your blessing thanks to the oil which exudes and pours out of her
innocent hands and her pure face, as we have witnessed it yesterday and
before that day
. . . .
My brothers, the Unity of the Church, wherever you are, is nothing but
faith and love. Amen.”
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 115
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Damascus, January 5, 1999:
The doors of the Soufanieh house are still wide open and with no
time restriction. The daily prayer continues. Gratuity is maintained with
intransigence. Reproductions of the Icon, books and cotton wool soaked
with the miraculous oil are distributed or sent out free of charge all over
the world.
We declined all invitations to the United States in 1998. On the
other hand, Myrna was invited by a Dutch family in April 1998 to go to
Portugal and visit Fatima. She enjoyed it very much despite the short-
ness of the trip. She was fortunate to visit the Carmelite Sisters of
Coimbra. The sign of the oil, which appeared on Myrna’s hands, gave
her the occasion of a short encounter with Sr. Lucia, to the immense joy
of both. [See p. 142 where Fr. Fox, author, interviewed Myrna on this
encounter with Sr. Lucia of Fatima.]
Diffusion of the messages:
The Internet site is developing in quality and quantity. One can lis-
ten to or watch over 50 hours of songs, testimonies and videos. There are
over 45,000 accesses to the site of Our Lady of Soufanieh. One can find
documentation in Arabic, Armenian, English, Greek, Creole, French,
Rumanian, Vietnamese, Polish, Russian, Spanish and German on the
Soufanieh phenomenon.
Celebrations of the 16th Anniversary:
Many friends from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, France, Belgium,
Canada and the United States were present. The bigger than expected
attendance made it impossible for us to organize the two-day retreat that
we had planned. We were to elaborate a common work plan destined to
set up the international organization of the mission of Soufanieh, as well
as to discuss the publication of a news bulletin.
Two celebrations took place in Damascus:
At the house of Our Lady, on November 26, communal prayers start-
ed at 4:00 p.m. and ended after midnight. It had been organized in co-
ordination with prayer groups and choirs who came from Syria, Lebanon
and France. At 11:00 p.m., Msgr. Georges Riachi, Melkite Catholic
Bishop of Tripoli (Lebanon) celebrated Mass in the presence of Msgr.
Isidore Battikha, patriarchal vicar of Damascus, as well as ten other priests
from various communities, including Fr. Joseph Besnier, from France. At
the end of the Mass, oil exuded from Myrna’s hands.
A solemn Mass took place at the church of the Franciscan Fathers in
Bab Touma (Damascus), on Friday, November 27 at 11:00 a.m. The
Apostolic Nuncio himself, Msgr. Pierre Giacomo de Nicolo, celebrated it.
Several other priests and four Catholic bishops concelebrated with him.
[Below is the sermon by His Excellency, the Apostolic Nuncio in
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Syria, Msgr. Pier Giacomo de Nicolo, at the Latin church for the Fran-
ciscans in Bab-Touma (Damascus)—November 27, 1998]:
We have just lived together an intense hour of prayer during which the
Divine Grace has overwhelmed us through the intercession of Our Lady,
and during which the real joy, fruit of the Holy Spirit, has flooded our hearts.
This joy is all the more great since three bishops of this capital, Their
Excellencies Msgr. Antoine Harrid Mourani, Maronite archbishop, Msgr.
Joseph Arnaouti, Armenian Catholic archbishop, Msgrs. Isidore Battikha,
Melkite Catholic Patriarchal Vicar and Msgr. Georges Riachi, Melkite
Catholic bishop of Tripoli (Lebanon) have concelebrated this divine liturgy,
thus proving once more their pastoral zeal. To each of them, grateful thanks
from all of us. Don’t we find there a beautiful expression of Unity in Christ to
which Our Lady of Soufanieh has been calling us all for the past sixteen years?
In this respect, and more specifically, as far as all the phenomena which
have revolved around Soufanieh are concerned—one must declare it clearly,
above everything else—we do not wish in any way to anticipate the final
judgment of the Church, but we simply appeal to a prudent Christian dis-
cernment, sustained by faith and the teachings of that same Church.
Aren’t we answering this maternal call with our prayers throughout the
Holy Mass, a fact which is expressed so deeply by the Arabic saying: “Al Oum
bit limm—The mother gathers”?
Let us thank Our Lord Jesus for having sent us His Mother, the Theo-
tokos, in order to bring us all back to the unique Home of Our Father in
Heaven, through prayer, penance, love and contrition. Let us thank Him to
have made use of such a small Icon representing His great and humble
Mother, so as to remind us all, without exception, that we are children of Our
Father in Heaven
. . . .
Let us thank Him also for having chosen Damascus in order to show the
strength of His Mercy, the way he showed it two thousand years ago, when
St. Paul was stricken and filled with His Light, to become later His great
apostle and missionary.
Let us thank Him also for having chosen a young couple, six months only
after the celebration of their wedding, in order to remind us that marriage is
and still remains a Divine Sacrament, namely an aspect of life so desired by
God the Father since the beginnings of time and consecrated by the grace of
His Son Jesus Christ, the Savior, at a time when known forces as well as
occult powers try in every way to destroy it.
Let us thank Him for having reminded us through the voice of His All-
Holy Mother that the child, within marriage, is a “gift from Heaven,” at a
time when in millions of cases life is aborted at its beginning, either in a
criminal way or in an unfair legalized fashion.
Let us thank Him also for having blessed the whole Arab world through
the exceptional presence of the Virgin Mary in Damascus, thus reminding us
that the mystery of Redemption concerns all people, regardless of their origin
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 117
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and of their social or religious adherence.
Let us thank Him finally for the beautiful network of friendship, faith
and prayer, that His Holy Mother weaves, throughout the world, from that
modest house of Soufanieh, which is always open to prayer, in the most obvi-
ous gratuitousness, in order to remind the world that the wealth of mankind
is God alone and that the family cannot blossom in equilibrium and joy
without primarily searching for God through prayer.
Blessed are You, Lord Jesus, for having wanted to show Your presence,
in the Church of Damascus and of Syria, through the protective solicitude of
Your Mother, who fills our hearts with joy and peace. Amen.
The Testimonial Trips of Myrna ( January 2000):
Myrna was invited to Portugal by the Association of the Renewal of the
Christian Family, located in the town of Coimbra with the approval of
its bishop. I accompanied her during that three-stage trip:
Holland ( January 14-16)—We spent two days in Holland as guests
of the Benedictine Monks of Vaals, whose Prior has long been interest-
ed in Soufanieh and has travelled there several times. Two noticeable
events occurred during that visit: oil exuded abundantly from Myrna’s
hands, towards the end of a prayer held jointly by Fr. Johannes M. Touw
and 30 other members of his community, in the visitor’s section of the
abbey itself.
A meeting took place that same evening between Myrna and a
group of about 15 monks. During the exchange, one was impressed by
the depth of the monks’ questions as well as by the transparency of
Myrna’s answers. I acted as a translator.
Portugal ( January 16-22)—The program included four conferences:
two in Lisbon on January 17 and 21, a third one in Coimbra on the 19th
and a fourth one in Porto on the 20th. Each of these four conferences
ended with abundant exudation of oil from Myrna’s hands.
The deep and simple faith of the Portuguese impressed us. Their
country is rich in pilgrimage sites. However, Fatima remains, undoubt-
edly, the most beautiful and impressive one.
We had the grace of celebrating several Masses with numerous
Portuguese priests in the Carmel in Coimbra, where Sr. Lucia, one of
the three visionaries of Fatima, is living. A long profound interview was
granted to us by the Carmelites, but it was impossible for us to see Sr.
Lucia, even during Mass, because she was bed-ridden [at the time].
Nicolas, Myrna’s Husband, Undergoes Heart Surgery:
On June 2, Nicolas suffered a serious cardiac malaise. It was quick-
ly decided that he must be operated on. This took place in the Jordanian
capital, Amman, on June 14. He first convalesced in Amman, then in
Damascus and finally in Lebanon. On September 1, he resumed work
at the “Oasis of Hope.”
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I mention this fact for two reasons:
Nicolas does not belong to himself anymore. He tries, since the
beginning of the Soufanieh events, to adjust himself loyally to the Will
of the Lord. This has been and still is a very costly endeavor.
The spiritual experience which Nicolas, Myrna and some Soufanieh
faithful have gone through, during that trial, far exceeds the weight of
the trial itself, when one discovers the permanent and delicate care that
God has been bestowing upon them.
Celebrations of the 17th Anniversary (1999):
Numerous Soufanieh faithful attended this anniversary. The net-
work of faith, love and unity woven by the Virgin Mary throughout the
world, in such a short time, is very impressive. However, let me briefly
mention the celebrations which took place in Damascus and in
Montreal (Canada):
Damascus—the first celebration took place on Thursday, November
25 at 5 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Church in Douela, on the southern outskirts
of Damascus. The Vicar Melkite Patriarchate presided. Msgr. Isidore
Battikha’s homily was entirely focused on the Soufanieh messages relat-
ed to the unity of the Church and the unity of the Feast of Easter. Also
present were a Coptic-Orthodox priest as well as the Archmandrite
Msgr. Eugene N. Pappas from Brooklyn (United States), one of the
main assistants to the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople. At the end
of the Mass, Msgr. Pappas delivered a speech on the main message of
Soufanieh, namely unity. Then he began to sing a hymn to the Holy
Spirit. Just before the end of the hymn, oil exuded abundantly from
Myrna’s hands.
The second celebration took place at the “House of the Virgin
Mary” on Wednesday, November 26; the prayer was continuous from 4-
11 p.m. At 11 p.m., Fr. Paul Fadel, surrounded by several priests, cele-
brated the Holy Mass in the patio of the house.
At the end of the Mass, the anniversary cake was cut and people
started to sing: “Happy Birthday Mary” in several languages when, all of
a sudden, oil oozed abundantly from Myrna’s hands. It was 25 minutes
past midnight.
Montreal, Canada (1999):
When one sees the program established to celebrate the 17th
anniversary of Soufanieh, between November 24 and December 15, one
may think that it is not Montreal but Damascus, which had the privi-
lege to live such a phenomenon since 1982. Judge for yourself.
October 15, 1999:
The inauguration of the Center “Nostra Signora di Soufanieh”
(and the blessing of the statue of St. Francis Forgione [Padre Pio]) for
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Christian unity and inter-religious dialogue on the threshold of the
third millennium” in Rome (Via Aurelia 737).
This Center of Our Lady of Soufanieh for Christian unity was the
personal initiative of Msgr. Luigi Accogli, former Apostolic Nuncio in
Damascus. The idea sprung up while celebrating his farewell Mass in
Soufanieh itself.
Myrna was invited to this. During that week of prayers and meet-
ings, oil exuded several times from Myrna’s hands.
Holy Week 2001 at Soufanieh, Damascus, Syria:
At the level of the signs, three facts are noteworthy to report:
1. The opening of the Stigmata wounds:
On Holy Thursday, at 1:45 p.m., the wounds appeared on Myrna’s
forehead, in her palms, on her flank (12 cm.) and on the top of her feet.
The wounds were preceded, for several minutes, by a sudden and sub-
stantial trembling in all of Myrna’s body. Blood appeared on all the
wounds, except on her feet. [See photos on pp. 58-59.]
Obviously, Myrna suffered atrociously. Yet, she endured those suf-
ferings with great control and modesty. Afterwards, she was taken to her
bedroom, she had her shoes removed, then laid on her bed. She
remained in her bed until 9 p.m. She was later able to get up with some
difficulty.
Everything was witnessed by numerous persons from Syria,
Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, France, Holland, Denmark, Canada,
United States, Australia, Tahiti and Ile de la Réunion.
Among these witnesses, medical doctors of various specialties were
present. I have asked them their written testimonial.
With the crowd in prayer, one could find the following priests
around Myrna’s bed: Fr. Paul Fadel, Antoine Mousleh, Jean-Paul
Devedeux (from France) and myself.
Around 3 p.m., the Melkite Catholic Bishop from Tripoly (Leb-
anon), Msgr. Georges Riachi, arrived. He had celebrated the Holy Mass
earlier that day (11 a.m.) in the patio of the house. He stayed half an
hour next to the bed, praying. Before leaving, he confided to me: “Father,
tell Myrna that I prayed intensely for her, and I have asked from Our
Lord and the Virgin Mary to give Myrna the needed strength and cour-
age in order for her to remain faithful to her mission, and to triumph
against the temptations of the devil.”
2. The oozing of oil from the miraculous Icon:
No one was able to see the actual oozing of oil that occurred very early
Saturday morning. It was around 1:30 a.m., coinciding with the arrival of
Fr. Fadi Tabet from Beirut (Lebanon). We were all very happy to see the
presence of oil in the glass cupola placed under the Icon; three drops of oil
are suspended to its modest plastic base until today—April 21.
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This oozing occurred after a radical interruption of eleven years;
that is, since the dawn of Easter 1990.
3. The ecstasy and Message of Holy Saturday, April 14:
The ecstasy started at 2:15 p.m. Myrna’s face and hands were sud-
denly covered with oil. She was in the patio singing with the crowd. She
was then taken to her bed. After several long and painful minutes of evi-
dent eye irritations, she entered into a state of ecstasy that lasted thirty-
five minutes.
At the end of the ecstasy, Myrna told us that she saw the Holy
Virgin and Fr. Joseph Malouli (who had been her spiritual director) and
had died on March 5, 2000. The Virgin Mary was holding her left hand
while Fr. Malouli, the right. Both of them took her towards Jesus. They
were all bathing in a bright light, especially Jesus.
Jesus gave her the following message, transcribed by Fr. Paul Fadel,
a message that I translated (into French) with the collaboration of the
French and Arabic group of pilgrims who were present.
Among the large crowd that was present, medical doctors and the
following priests were also present: Frs. Paul Fadel, Fadi Tabet, Antoine
Mousleh, Elias Francis, Joseph Besnier, Jean-Paul Devedeux and myself.
Please note that all the events of these past couple days were video-
taped by several cameramen from Denmark, Canada, Australia, France,
Egypt, Lebanon, Tahiti and Syria.
C
The author of this book has merely summarized the above or taken
excerpts he considered highlights from the extensive periodicals or col-
lective letters of Fr. Zahlaoui. It is the way this priest, so closely associ-
ated with Soufanieh, keeps people around the world informed of
Soufanieh. The excerpts will give readers at least some idea of the
extensive mission of Soufanieh for Christian love and unity in the fam-
ily and heaven’s call for Unity of Christians in the Church.
In each case they are signed by Fr. Elias Zahlaoui, Our Lady of
Damascus Parish, Koussour, Damascus, Syria.
C
Chapter 5. Interview with Fr. Elias Zahlaoui 121
background image
(Left) Myrna explains
the statue brought to
Damascus from Portu-
gal. Myrna has a special
love for Our Lady of
Fatima. While in Por-
tugal, she met Sr. Lucia.
(Bottom) Myrna with
son John Emmanuel
demonstrated their love
for the children of
Fatima, Blesseds Fran-
cisco and Jacinta, as they
stand below the im-
mense mural icon in
their House of the
Virgin.
122