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Chapter 6
Interviews with Myrna and
the Soufanieh Family
HILE IN DAMASCUS at Soufanieh, I interviewed
close friends of Myrna and the Nazzour Family. A good
wife’s closest friend on earth will be her husband, in this
case Nicolas Nazzour. He told me that the events of Soufanieh turned
his planned married life entirely around. Information he shared with me
is already contained in previous chapters. Nicolas explained that the
events have brought him to Jesus Christ and an awareness of what is
needed for salvation.
“While the events started in November,” said Nicolas, “by Decem-
ber, that is, within five or six weeks, I was totally convinced of the super-
natural character of Soufanieh. We opened the doors to Jesus Christ in
our home.” Nicolas, who at first wanted to keep the unusual events pri-
vate, soon learned from Myrna that the will of the Mother of God was
to open the door of their home to all who cared to enter, visit, pray
before the Icon of Our Lady of Soufanieh.
If there was any sign of worldliness in Nicolas before the events of
Soufanieh, such as desiring always to dress well, the importance of such
waned away. One day in discussing Myrna with Nicolas, he said to me,
“Myrna is a gem.” He offered to show me the oil on the floor, under the
pillar of the terrace where Our Lady appeared and the oil overflowed
from Myrna’s hands onto the floor.
The events of Soufanieh made significant changes in their lives. We
made some reference to this in chapter 1. The first event took place on
Monday, November 22, 1982. Myrna was accompanied by Alice, her
mother-in-law, who still lived with Nicolas.
They were at the bedside of Leila, Nicolas’s sister. She had been
bedridden because of sharp pains which made her scream at times. Sev-
eral other women, who included relatives, neighbors and Leila’s mother,
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Alice, were present. The latter suggested that all present pray for the sick
After several minutes of prayer, says Myrna, “Suddenly I felt a
strange, indescribable thing; all my body shivered, as if a force had come
out of me. A young Muslim woman named Mayada Kozaly shouted:
‘Myrna, what’s on your hands?’ Oil was oozing from my hands.”
When this happened Myrna came close to fainting. Everyone
shouted: “Oh! Virgin, help us.”
Myrna then rubbed the aching places on Leila’s body with her oil-
filled hands. Immediately Leila’s pain stopped.
Later, Myrna and Nicolas expressed their worry, shocked by the
event and they kept asking themselves: “Why would we have been cho-
sen by God?” They were not particularly religious people. They fulfilled
their religious obligations in going to Church. Nicolas said, “I was a
believer but I thought about God only when in need!”
Nothing extraordinary had marked Myrna’s childhood or adoles-
cence. Her travels with her family were between Beirut, Lebanon and
Damascus. She was reserved by nature, yet of a joyful character with her
face brightening into a beautiful smile, something I observed repeated-
ly while at Soufanieh. She has two brothers and two sisters.
As previously noted, a physician in Damascus found no pathologi-
cal shortcomings in Myrna and said, “She is hopelessly normal.”
God does nothing for nothing. Why did He choose Myrna and
Nicolas for this mission (and we must name both of them)? “Have you
not read that at the beginning ‘the Creator made them male and female
and declared . . . the two shall be as one’?” (Mt. 19, 3-6).
Initially I was aware of heaven’s call for unity in the Church even
before I went to Damascus to discover for myself a reportedly ideal
Christian Community that had formed about Soufanieh. While there, the
strong realization in learning more about the events firsthand was that it
was also a call for love and unity in the family and in the Church. But the
family is the first Church (the domestic Church). That love and unity
must exist in the millions and millions of miniature mystical bodies, or the
domestic churches, the little churches which make up our families.
It seems God is intervening directly at Soufanieh for the individual
family and for the universal family of His Church. The two great
Christian bodies are the Catholics and Orthodox. God wants them to
be one, as he wants all Christians to be one. At Soufanieh he chooses a
family where the wife, Myrna, is Melkite Catholic in union with Rome
or Peter’s successor and Nicolas is Orthodox.
Pope John Paul II has called the Orthodox Church our “sister
Church” and said that the Church needs two lungs with which to
breathe. Eastern-rite Catholics in many respects understand the Ortho-
dox better than Western-rite, or Roman Catholics, but they are every bit
as much “Catholic” as all other Catholics in union with the Pope. And
Chapter 6. Interviews with Myrna and the Soufanieh Family
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Nicolas is of the Syriac
Orthodox whose patriarch
has such strong ties with the
Pope, has met with the Pope
and has come to mutual
understanding (as explained
in the first chapter). This
patriarch could look at me
when I visited his headquar-
ters in Damascus and say
that the only difference
between us is one of admin-
Myrna and Nicolas
gradually came to realize
that God was asking some-
thing special of them. It
came at a time when the
family was, and still is, in crisis, when many marriages are failing. It
came when the pain of division among Christians is so pronounced and
more greatly realized since the Second Vatican Council (1963-65). And
yet, it came at a time when at least among Western Christians, more
than one new denomination, on the average, is being formed daily,
bringing the total as I write this book to near 30,000. Amidst all this
confusion the unique events began 20 years ago in the Middle East
before the release of this book.
What an impact it would have on the world if Catholics in union
with His Holiness, the Pope at Rome, were to be totally united with the
millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the world, especially
Orthodox in the East. A loud and clear message would go out to the
thousands of non-Catholic denominations about the origins of Chris-
tianity, the union that once existed between East and West. All could
come to appreciate and live the Will of Jesus Christ Who, when He
instituted the Holy Eucharist, which is valid and true for both Catholics
and Orthodox, prayed, “that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and
I in you; I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe
that you sent me” ( John 17:21).
With the union of these two lungs into Christ’s true Church, would
not the Protestant denominations realize more clearly what they have
lost by separation and division?
The First Interview (with Salwa Naassan)
Salwa, will you give me a brief background of yourself?
Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
Myrna and Nicolas receive the Holy Eucharist
at their marriage. This Sacrament keeps good
Christian couples one in Jesus Christ.
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I was born in 1960, obtained a bachelor’s degree in French literature.
Married Imad Farah (Melkite Catholic). We have two sons, Elie was
born in 1987 and Eddie was born in 1989.
What is your relationship to Myrna Nazzour and how long have you known
Myrna is my neighbor and has been my friend for 19 years. I see her
almost every day.
Does Myrna ever confide spiritual experiences with you?
Yes, she does. For example: in 1984, a few days before Myrna lost her
sight, I was with her and noticed that she was worried about something.
I asked her, “Why do you look tired and anxious?” She answered, “I
heard a voice saying: ‘I will take the light of your eyes?’” [“Light of your
eyes” is an Arabic expression that means someone will lose his sight.]
Myrna was scared and worried, not about herself but about her hus-
band and family. How would they feel and react if she became blind?
She asked me to keep this as a secret and not to tell anyone about it.
Have you often witnessed the oil?
Yes, I have been a witness of the oil both from the Icon and from Myrna
on many occasions.
Have you witnessed the stigmata in Myrna?
Yes. I was a witness for the four times that Myrna has received the stig-
mata of Jesus Christ in 1983, 1984, 1987 and 200l. In all these years,
except for 1983, Easter was unified between the Orthodox and Catho-
lics. To see the stigmata of Jesus Christ is a great gift. It touched me very
deeply in the heart to witness the suffering and pain of Jesus through
Myrna. As for me, suffering and pain of Jesus equals his love for us. Jesus
loves us to such an extent that he wants us to be with him in heaven. And
this salvation leading to heaven cannot be except through his blood.
In your relationship to Myrna, outside the time when she actually experiences
supernatural happenings, does she seem like a different person than before?
I knew Myrna since the beginning of the phenomena. Her personality
has not changed except her spiritual side has developed into more matu-
rity and depth. Otherwise Myrna is still the good, amiable, humble, live-
ly and vivacious person as before.
Chapter 6. Interviews with Myrna and the Soufanieh Family
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
What has Soufanieh done for you personally, being so closely associated?
I was always a believer (in God, in the Church), but in Soufanieh I have
touched the presence of Jesus through material signs. Through Sou-
fanieh I became a stronger believer in the Holy Eucharist and now I
more strongly believe that Jesus exists in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus is
with us and he will still be with us until the end of the world. Jesus is
present in every baptized person (by faith and grace) because every
human person is created in the image and likeness of God.
Following the events of what I have seen and lived in Soufanieh, I
feel that I have been taken back 2000 years, and that I live again at the
time of Jesus.
What effect has Soufanieh had on your family, your children, and others?
My children and I pray and read the Bible almost every night before
going to bed. Also, we participate in the Saturday Mass and the Tuesday
night youth prayer meetings which take place in Myrna’s home. Some-
times my children come with me to participate in the daily prayer in the
later afternoon in Myrna’s home. They have a great faith and it is grow-
ing more and more in them.
Do you think that Muslim people who are aware of Soufanieh are now more
open to Jesus Christ and who he is?
Every person, whatever his religion, even if he is an atheist, who gets to
know Soufanieh will be touched in his heart and change for the better.
Are your children and the children of Myrna and Nicolas friends? Does our
Myrna is present while the author interviews her friend, Salwa Naassan.
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Lady of Soufanieh seem to deepen their faith and does it have an influence on
the children’s relationship to each other?
Yes, they are friends with Myrna’s children and especially with John
Emmanuel, because they are all boys. They play and spend a lot of time
together. As for the rest of the question, it was answered above.
Do you think Soufanieh has earned a higher respect for Christianity among
Muslim peoples?
Those who have heard about Soufanieh, and believe in this supernatu-
ral phenomenon, have received a higher respect for Christianity. Sou-
fanieh has enhanced their love for the Virgin Mary. We can see them
from time to time praying before the Holy Icon.
What do you think is the greatest difficulty for Christians living in a Muslim
As a Christian living in Syria, I can tell you frankly and honesty that we
have almost no problems. I cannot talk about other countries. As
Syrians, we do love each other and there is a remarkable, astonishing
coexistence between Muslims and Christians. We have the liberty to
celebrate our feasts, traditions, prayers. Believe me when I say that the
celebrations of Easter and Christmas in Syria are greater than any other
place of the world. You have to come and see it. Then you will under-
stand what I mean.
Has Soufanieh had an effect of bringing Orthodox and Catholic Christians
into closer understanding?
As you know, Soufanieh’s motto is: “Unity, Love, Faith.” Let me discuss
each one separately.
Unity: The unity of Easter between Orthodox and Catholics is a
first step toward the entire unity of the Church.
Love: We have to love each other as human brothers and sisters.
Faith: We all have to believe in God.
Because of Soufanieh there are already attempts on the way to unity
and what is remarkable is that the new generations never talk about
Orthodox and Catholics. They pray in whatever church they desire and
they ask for unity.
Do most Christians who are aware of Soufanieh believe in it?
As of every supernatural phenomena, there are always believers and
Chapter 6. Interviews with Myrna and the Soufanieh Family
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Do you have any concluding remarks?
There is no easy way, but since Jesus and his Mother are with us we will
continue until the end. Since Jesus wants unity, so he will be the victo-
rious One by the victory of his Church. Definitely the Church will be
unified one day since this is the will and desire of Jesus and Jesus never
starts a work without finishing it.
Maya Patsalides of Damascus, 25-years-old at the time, single, gave
me the following information before I interviewed her.
“I first came to Soufanieh to pray with my mother when I was 11
years old when Myrna received the stigmata for the second time. The
first time I saw her suffering with the stigmata I believed.
“There were three and a half years when my father, who is a civil
engineer, had some problems with the government. Then the problem
ceased and they declared my father innocent. Then our family asked
Myrna to come and pray at our home. While she was praying oil came
from her hands.
“I can say that I have a great relationship with Myrna. She gave me
great spiritual support. She and Fr. Malouli taught me how to pray and
they were saying that we should have hard times in order to come close
to Jesus. At the time when all this started I and my friends were still very
young, 11 or 12-years-old, yet Fr. Malouli tried to develop a little prayer
group with us and we would ask questions of Fr. Malouli. Being so
young we were ignorant of many things. We had six to eight meetings.
Then I was the only one who kept coming to Soufanieh.
“I have thus had the opportunity to be a witness to many spiritual
happenings here, like the oil, the stigmata, the message during the
ecstasies. Myrna does not see while in ecstasy. If one would hit her dur-
ing ecstasy her senses would not respond. When she forms her hands
and fingers like the priest in blessing it is not possible to move her hands,
feet or head. Even big men cannot lift her at such a time. Myrna remem-
bers nothing of what happens around her of things like this.
“There are three phases to what happens when Myrna undergoes
spiritual transformation:
1. Apparitions or visions that only Myrna sees.
“Until this time (September 2001) Myrna has had five apparitions.
These take place upstairs, on the balcony or terrace. The first time the
Virgin appeared suddenly. The second and future times the Virgin
appeared she came from the tree to Myrna on the terrace.
2. Ecstasy. There have been 34 ecstasies until now. [Another took
place the following November 27, 2001.]
3. Stigmata.
“Last Holy Week of 2001 the stigmata came at 1:35 p.m. on Holy
Thursday and lasted until around midnight, going into Good Friday.
Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
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“Many with afflictions come here to pray and many with afflictions
have been healed here, regardless of their religion. This includes Mus-
lims, etc. Both Christians and Muslims come here.
“The very large Icon one can see on the wall [of the Soufanieh
Virgin’s House] was painted in three days by three men: 1. a Muslim, 2.
a Christian, and 3. a Sharkas (a division of Islam).
I asked further questions of Maya Patsalides, a close friend of Myrna,
adept at secretarial work. She attended the American University in Egypt.
She is the photographer who supplied the Fatima Family Apostolate and
others with many Soufanieh pictures. Her interview follows.
I understood Nicolas to say to me that the first time Myrna was drawn up the steps
to the terrace is when our Lady with the crucifix of her Rosary touched Myrna’s
hands. At that moment from Myrna’s hands oil overflowed unto the floor and
formed the suffering face of Jesus Christ? Is that correct?
Yes, what you understood is correct. The first one to see this face was the
previous Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, Luigi Accogli, on September
8, 1987. And he asked to take a picture of the oil and the face.
I understood Nicolas to say that the oil is still there, under the pillar, and the
petitions that are dropped into the pillar, which is over the spot of the appari-
tion. Is the stain of the oil still there?
Yes. The stain of the oil is still there, on the floor of the terrace. [Another
floor was built over the original concrete floor on the terrace that exist-
ed at the time but the pillar is now over the spot of apparitions and
maintains the original floor, beneath and within the pillar.]
Emphasis has been put on the first apparition taking place at the same time
as Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, that is, regarding the appearance of
the Mother of God to St. Catherine Labouré. You celebrate the anniversary
of the apparition, however, on November 26. My research on the
Miraculous Medal tells me the first apparition at rue de Bac in Paris was
at 11:30 p.m. on July 18, 1830, when her Guardian Angel led her to Our
Lady in the chapel. Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine again on November
27, not the 26th? Was that the first apparition of Our Lady to Myrna?
How does it coincide with the apparition of St. Catherine Labouré and the
Miraculous Medal?
We celebrate the Mass on the night of November 26th at 11:00 p.m. and
then at the end of the Mass, at and after midnight, we celebrate the
anniversary. We sing “Happy Birthday, Virgin Mary” and we share the
cake with everyone. Because the first time the oil exuded from the holy
Icon of Our Lady of Soufanieh was on the morning of November 27,
Chapter 6. Interviews with Myrna and the Soufanieh Family
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
1982, at 8:15. It is due to the oriental church, because for them the day
begins with the sunset.
I was pleased that I was able to witness the oil at the very site of the appari-
tions at Soufanieh. Am I correct that the apparitions to Myrna have taken
place only on the terrace?
Yes. The apparitions of the Virgin Mary have taken place only on that
Myrna had asked me to consecrate extra altar breads at that Mass I offered on
the terrace where the apparitions of the Virgin have taken place. I believe the
consecrated hosts were to take to the sick. The Real Presence of Jesus Christ was
still in the small chapel then where I had just offered the Holy Sacrifice of the
Mass on the final evening, very late, where the miracle of the oil came. When
I asked Myrna if any messages she had ever received concerned the Holy
Eucharist, she answered, “Not yet.”
Indirectly those of St. Catherine did concern the Holy Eucharist as her
Guardian Angel took her to Mary seated by the altar and tells her to come to
the foot of the altar to ask for things, graces needed. That means, come to Jesus
in the Holy Eucharist, in the Blessed Sacrament. I wonder if perhaps there has
not been some indirect associations in the Soufanieh message with Jesus pres-
ent in the Holy Eucharist?
When Myrna answered you that day “not yet,” it was because neither
Jesus Christ nor the Virgin Mary had yet explicitly talked about the
Holy Eucharist. But, in Jesus’ last message, November 27, 2001 (just
over two months after you were here) during the Ecstasy of the 19th
anniversary, Jesus had talked directly and clearly about the Holy
The Medal of St. Catherine
Labouré. The front side
shows Our Lady crushing
the serpent. On the back
side, the cross and bar inter-
twined with the M signify
the close relationship of Jesus
and Mary.
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Do you know of
examples, since Sou-
fanieh concerns the
family, as well as
unity in the Church,
where families were
saved, that is, where
marriages were saved
or strengthened be-
cause o f O u r L a d y
o f Soufanieh?
Ye s . M y r n a h a s
brought together
many families that
had either physical
or spiritual prob-
lems. She went to
them and prayed
with them. She has
prevented many di-
vorces by her prayers
with these families.
Do you have any
concluding remarks?
I’ll tell you a bit of
our news in Sou-
f a n i e h : c on c e r n -
ing the Youth Prayer meeting every Tuesday at 9 p.m. [like the one you
attended]. The gathering is getting bigger and the number of people
praying increases every day. On Tuesday, November 6, 2001, when the
theme of the prayer meeting that night was unity, one of the young men,
while he was praying loudly, suggested to all that t h e re b e c re a t e d
some kind of organization for Soufan i e h . S o, M y r n a then talked
to everyone and told them about you, Fr. Fox, and your Fatima Family
We then decided to create the Soufanieh Family. What is
surprising in this account is that a few d ay s p re v i o u s l y, Myrna, Rita,
Salwa and I were talking about creating a Soufanieh Family and
to ask you to send us your magazine [Immaculate Heart Messenger]
and to ask you to also send your internal law [Charter of the Fatima
Family Apostolate
]. But we were not sure where to start.
Well, on Tuesday, November 13, 2001, after prayers, we celebrated
the birthday of the Soufanieh Family. Two weeks later during the
Chapter 6. Interviews with Myrna and the Soufanieh Family
Myrna is getting ready the temporary altar for the
evening Sacrifice of the Mass (Divine Liturgy).
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message of the Ecstasy on the 29th anniversary, Jesus Christ blessed our
prayers and Soufanieh family. I’ll send you the English translation of the
message as soon as we have finished a good translation.
Could you please send us your magazine, the Immaculate Heart Mes-
senger and the Charter of the Fatima Family Apostolate and your ideas for
our youth Soufanieh Family? For the 19th anniversary there were pil-
grims from different countries, such as France, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt.
They have celebrated this occasion and prayed with us on Tuesday. We
have told them about the Soufanieh Family so they ask us to participate
in this Family and to send them by e-mail our program and theme of
Tuesday prayer sessions so they can participate with us, and send us their
prayers and meditations. So, every Tuesday there is a group of French
people who pray with us the same prayers. Tobias, the German young
man you know, participates with us in a prayer group in Germany,
because we send him every week the program and the theme of the
prayer via internet. [End of Interview.]
I had many conversations with Myrna during the week I was a guest
at the Virgin’s House of Soufanieh. When I asked Myrna if I under-
stood correctly that the Soufanieh message concerns as well the unity for
all Christians in One Church as Jesus intended from the beginning, if it
also concerned holiness of the family.
Myrna’s response was: “Yes. One of Jesus’ messages was: “deepen
your life as a wife, mother and sister.”
Who arranged that Pope John Paul II was able to use your chalice when he
came to Damascus in May 2001? Myrna’s response: “At first it seemed that I
would not be allowed to meet the Pope because my husband is Orthodox. In
Syria when a Catholic marries an Orthodox, the Orthodox control the fami-
ly.” [Myrna remained Catholic.]
I went to all of the Pope’s Masses in Damascus. The chalice I have for
use for Masses here in the home was an American gift to me. When
there was going to be a Mass offered by the Pope on May 5, 2001, the
Salesian Sisters helped find many chalices (so people could receive under
both species). They borrowed mine. People could not all get into the
Church and many were outside. The Salesian Sisters saw me standing
among all the people outside and arranged for me to come into the
Church. Thus I was near the middle aisle when the Pope came.
With all the chalices on the altar I was most pleased when at the ele-
vation I saw that the Pope was using my chalice. I looked up with delight
at the elevation and said to myself, “He is using my chalice.” The Pope
was asked afterwards if I could keep this chalice here in Damascus and
the Pope agreed.
Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
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With the location of Myrna in the Church, she explained to me, she was
able to kiss the Pope’s hand twice; once while His Holiness Pope John
Paul II was entering for the Solemn Mass and again while the Pope was
leaving the altar, that is, going out of the church in procession as he
passed her place in the pews of the Church.
Did Our Lady look like the painting in your living room which was done by
a Belgium artist?
The clothes do. The way she is standing is the same. Only it is not true
for the face. I could not describe her face. I agree with Sr. Lucia who
said, “No matter how beautiful you [an artist] make the image, it will
never be as beautiful as Mary is.”
Was Mary’s body entirely of light?
In the first vision our Mother was wearing sun-diamonds (like dia-
monds shining in the sun). She was shining like real diamonds (in the
light). I touched her and she felt the same as when one is touching a
physical human body.
Has the Blessed Mother always had the rosary when she has appeared to you?
Has Our Lady appeared to you all five times in the balcony [terrace]?
How many countries have you traveled to for Our Lady of Soufanieh?
Many. America, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain,
Holland, Belgium, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Cyprus and to Cairo, Egypt
many times, etc.
What do you do in these countries?
I am always invited by the Church. I speak on unity and Our Lady of
Soufanieh. I speak of unity of the Church and of the family. For unity of
the Church we must begin by having unity in the family. That means
unity with husband, wife, children—that they all be together.
The Lady Mary said to me, “I give you a gift for what you have done
for me.” The gift was my first child, Miriam, now 15-years-old. I always
say, Miriam is a gift from heaven.
Chapter 6. Interviews with Myrna and the Soufanieh Family
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Do you pray with people in the countries you visit?
I speak and pray in Arabic and someone translates. I sing songs. When
oil comes in other countries the priests ask me to put oil on the people.
I tell them, “Pay attention, not to the oil, but to the Holy Spirit, to Jesus
and Mary. The great miracle is not the oil but that bread and wine (at
holy Mass) becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus. If you are searching
for a sign, look to the Resurrection of Jesus. If you are looking for proof,
the big proof is in the Bible.” The oil often has come when the people
are receiving Holy Communion. This is the way it is sometimes, but not
always then. I try to hide it (like at Holy Communion time) to keep
people from being distracted (during the Mass).
Has this oil happened in every country?
In every country there has been oil. In some churches, however, the oil
does not come.
What does Our Lady of Soufanieh say about prayer?
If you read the messages, you will find her often talking about prayer.
Does Our Lady speak about the Holy Eucharist?
Not yet. The messages are ongoing.
I found it interesting and edifying that at the very next message
Myrna was to receive from Jesus while in ecstasy, November 26, 2001,
there was mention of the Holy Eucharist as follows:
“ . . . But the whole is incomplete without your unity at the altar. I am
giving you My Body and My Blood as a proof of My fidelity and love.
Receive from Me this Sacrament with trust and faith, because this
Sacrament comforts you, provides you with strength and wisdom and
increases you in grace. . . .”
The above message of Jesus reminds one of the efforts of Pope John
Paul II for the reunion of Orthodox and Catholics and his words that
the Church needs two lungs to breathe, that of the East and the West.
The Orthodox also have a valid priesthood and therefore a valid
Eucharist of Sacrifice and Sacrament. But Orthodox and Catholics are
without total unity with each other when both have the same Eucharist
of Sacrifice and Sacrament. The same Sacrifice of the Cross is perpetu-
ated in the divine liturgy and the same real presence of the Body, Blood,
Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ occurs with
Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
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Catholics and Orthodox yet, “the whole is incomplete without your
unity at the altar.”
While Orthodox clergy may be present in recognition of their com-
mon faith in the Holy Eucharist, yet Orthodox and Catholic clergy do
not concelebrate at the same altar.
Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I, supreme head of the Uni-
versal Syrian Orthodox Church, as this book is written, has made great
strides in “a healing touch” toward total reunion with Rome. Brief men-
tion is made below of historical background:
Already during the reign of the late Moran Mor Jacob III efforts
were made to narrow the differences in explaining Christology between
the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The
result was a joint declaration issued in the Vatican on October 27, 1971,
signed by Patriarch Jacob and Pope Paul VI.
Included in the 1971 document, jointly signed were the words:
“The Pope and the Patriarch have recognized the deep spiritual
communion which already exists between their Churches. The celebra-
tion of the sacraments of the Lord, the common profession of faith in
the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God made Flesh for man’s salvation,
the apostolic traditions which form part of the common heritage of both
Churches, the great Fathers and Doctors, including St. Cyril of Alex-
andria, who are their common masters in the faith—all these testify to
the action of the Holy Spirit who has continued to work in their
Churches even when there have been human weakness and failings. The
period of mutual recrimination and condemnation has given place to a
willingness to meet together in sincere efforts to lighten and eventually
remove the burden of history which still weighs heavily upon Christians.
“Progress has already been made and Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch
Mor Ignatius Jacob III are in agreement that there is no difference in the
faith they profess concerning the mystery of the Word of God made
flesh and become really man, even if over the centuries difficulties have
arisen out of the different theological expressions by which this faith was
expressed. They therefore encourage the clergy and faithful of their
Churches to even greater endeavors at removing the obstacles which still
prevent complete communion among them. This should be done with
love, with openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and with
mutual respect for each other and each other’s Church. They particular-
ly exhort the scholars of their Churches, and of all Christian communi-
ties, to penetrate more deeply into the mystery of Christ with humility
and fidelity to the Apostolic traditions so that the fruits of their reflec-
tions may help the Church in her service to the world which the
Incarnate Son of God has redeemed.
Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I, presently reigning and with
whom I was able to meet, has gone even further than his predecessor in
working for Unity. He spoke to me of the joint signed agreement in
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1984 between himself and Pope John Paul II. Below are excerpts of his
greeting Pope John Paul II on Monday, June 18, 1984, which was little
more than a year and a half after the beginning of the Soufanieh events.
“Your Holiness, it is with profound Christian joy and great esteem
that I greet Your Holiness. St. Paul’s feelings of joyful anticipation when
preparing to visit the Church of Rome, were mine, as I was contemplat-
ing my visit to this venerable See, where Your Holiness presides in char-
ity over the largest communion of Christian people on earth. ‘I long to
see you’ said St. Paul, that we may be mutually encouraged by each
other’s faith” (Rom. 1:11, 12). I have pleasure to convey to Your Holi-
ness and the Roman Catholic Church the greetings of the Universal
Syrian Orthodox Church, the Catholics of the East, Metropolitans,
monks, nuns, clergy and the faithful all over the world.
“As Your Holiness is well aware, the Syrian Orthodox Church has
an unbroken chain from St. Peter to me who has been called to be his
121st legitimate successor in Antioch. At one time the Church of
Antioch extended its sway from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean
right across Asia to India and China. However, today it bears the painful
imprints of history. But powers of the world could not overcome or
destroy the Church, because the Master of the Church Jesus Christ has
always been with it.
“ . . . Your Holiness, the stresses and strains of human unity, up and
down the world, weigh heavily on our search for Christian unity today.
It has become necessary, therefore, not only to search for a common
understanding in matters of faith, but also to evolve a common Chris-
tian approach to the world and its problems. Ecumenical concern, and
action, should necessarily converge on both these today. . . .
“Our faith, and yours, have been tested in the crucible of fire, and we
are very conscious, that the world today is too strong for a divided
Church. The Christian response to the world today cannot be less than
a powerful and united witness of Christian faith and Christian living.
May our dialogues and activities converge to this ecumenical end. To
this common task we humbly re-affirm our commitment. Our visit to
Your Holiness and our enriching experience in this great city will
strengthen our resolve to continue to tread the path of fraternal ecclesi-
astical relations and Christian solidarity, so that our closeness may be
perfected in one communion, according to the will of our Lord. . . .
“We once again greet Your Holiness with profound joy and brother-
ly love, in the firm belief that we shall together overcome the misunder-
standings inherited from the past, and move forward, under divine guid-
ance, to full communion and unity in our common Lord. May the blessed
Trinity, the source of all life and all holiness, bless us. Thank you.”
St. Peter went to Antioch to minister as the Rock chosen by Jesus
before going on to continue his ministry from Rome. Thus this Patriarch
can well speak of himself as the successor of St. Peter of Antioch.
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On Saturday, June 23, 1985, there took place the second and final
session of the summit between the Patriarch of Rome (Pope John Paul
II) and the Patriarch of Antioch (Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I), at
which the following [excerpts] Joint Communique was signed by both:
“His Holiness John Paul II, Bishop of Rome and Pope of the
Catholic Church, and His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas,
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme head of the
Universal Syrian Orthodox Church, kneel down with full humility in
front of the exalted and extolled Heavenly Throne of our Lord Jesus
Christ, giving thanks for this glorious opportunity which has been
granted them to meet together in His love in order to strengthen further
the relationship between their two sister Churches, the Church of Rome
and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch—the relationship already
excellent through the joint initiative of their Holinesses of blessed mem-
ory Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Jacob III. . . .
“First of all, their Holinesses confess the faith of their two Churches,
formulated by the Nicene Council of 325 A.D. and generally known as
‘the Nicene Creed.’ The confusions and schisms that occurred between
their Churches in the later centuries, they realize today, in no way affect
or touch the substance of their faith, since these arose only because of dif-
ferences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted
by different theological schools, to express the same matter. Accordingly,
we find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schism that subse-
quently arose between us concerning the doctrine of Incarnation. In
words and life we confess the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord,
notwithstanding the differences in interpretation of such a doctrine
which arose at the time of the Council of Chalcedon.
“Hence we wish to reaffirm solemnly our profession of common
faith in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, as Pope Paul VI and
Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Jacob III did in 1971. They denied that
there was any difference in the faith they confessed in the mystery of the
Word of God made flesh and become truly man. In our turn we confess
that He became incarnate for us, taking to himself a real body with a
rational soul. He shared our humanity in all things except sin. We con-
fess that our Lord and our God, our Savior and the King of all, Jesus
Christ, is perfect God as to His divinity and perfect man as to His
humanity. In Him His divinity is united to His humanity. This union is
real, perfect, without blending or mingling, without confusion, without
alteration, without division, without the least separation. He who is God
eternal and indivisible, became visible in the flesh and took the form of
servant. In him are united, in a real, perfect indivisible and inseparable
way, divinity and humanity, and in Him all their properties are present
and active.
“Having the same conception of Christ, we confess also the same
conception of His mystery. Incarnate, dead and risen again, our Lord,
Chapter 6. Interviews with Myrna and the Soufanieh Family
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God and Savior has conquered sin and death. Through him during the
time between Pentecost and the Second Coming, the period which is also
the last phase of time, it is given to man to experience the new creation,
the kingdom of God, the transforming ferment (cf. Matt. 13:33) already
present in our midst. For this God has chosen a new people, His holy
Church which is the body of Christ. Through the Word and through the
Sacraments the Holy Spirit acts in the Church to call everybody and
make them members of this Body of Christ. Those who believe are bap-
tized in the Holy Spirit in the name of the Holy Trinity to form one body
and through the Holy Sacrament of the anointing of Confirmation their
faith is perfected and strengthened by the same Spirit.
“Sacramental life finds in the Holy Eucharist its fulfillment and its
summit, in such a way that it is through the Eucharist that the Church
most profoundly realizes and reveals its nature. Through the Holy
Eucharist the event of Christ’s Pasch expands throughout the Church.
Through Holy Baptism and Confirmation, indeed, the members of
Christ are anointed by the Holy Spirit, grafted on to Christ; and through
the Holy Eucharist the Church becomes what she is destined to be
through Baptism and Confirmation. By communion with the body and
blood of Christ the faithful grow in that mysterious divinization which
by the Holy Spirit makes them dwell in the Son as children of the Father.
“The other Sacraments, which the Catholic Church and the Syrian
Orthodox Church of Antioch hold together in one and the same suc-
cession of Apostolic ministry, i.e., Holy Orders, Matrimony, Recon-
ciliation of penitents and Anointing of the Sick, are ordered to that cele-
bration of the Holy Eucharist which is the center of sacramental life and
the chief visible expression of ecclesial communion. This communion of
Christians with each other and of local Churches united around their
lawful bishops is realized in the gathered community which confesses
the same faith, which reaches forward in hope of the world to come and
in expectation of the Savior’s return and is anointed by the Holy Spirit,
who dwells in it with charity that never fails.
“Since it is the chief expression of Christian unity between the faith-
ful and between bishops and priests, the Holy Eucharist cannot yet be
concelebrated by us. Such celebration supposes a complete identity of
faith such as does not yet exist between us. Certain questions, in fact, still
need to be resolved touching the Lord’s will for His Church, as also the
doctrinal implications and canonical details of the traditions proper to
our communities which have been too long separated.
“Our identity in faith, though not yet complete, entitles us to envis-
age collaboration between our Churches in pastoral care, in situations
which nowadays are frequent both because of the dispersion of our faith-
ful throughout the world and because of the precarious conditions of
these difficult times. It is not rare, in fact, for our faithful to find access
to a priest of their own Church materially or morally impossible. Anxi-
Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
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ous to meet their needs and with their spiritual benefit in mind, we
authorize them in such cases to ask for the Sacraments of Penance,
Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick from lawful priests of either of our
two sister Churches, when they need them. It would be a logical corol-
lary of collaboration in pastoral care to cooperate in priestly formation
and theological education. Bishops are encouraged to promote sharing
of facilities for theological education where they judge it to be advisable.
While doing this we do not forget that we must still do all in our power
to achieve the full visible communion between the Catholic Church and
the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and ceaselessly implore our
Lord to grant us that unity which alone will enable us to give to the
world a fully unanimous Gospel witness.
“Thanking the Lord who has allowed us to meet and enjoy the con-
solation of the faith we hold in common (cf. Rom.1:12) and to proclaim
before the world the mystery of the Person of the Word incarnate and
of His saving work, the unshakeable foundation of that common faith,
we pledge ourselves solemnly to do all that in us lies to remove the last
obstacles still hindering full communion between the Catholic Church
and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, so that with one heart and
voice we may preach the word: The True Light that enlightens every
man and ‘that all who believe in His name may become the children of
God’ (cf. John 1:9-12).”
Having met and talked to Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I,
and his having said to me in September 2001 that the only difference
between us is administration, and studying the joint communique
[above] which he signed together with Pope John Paul II, I get the dis-
tinct feeling that this Patriarch is ready for full union and is perhaps
waiting for fuller cooperation with the Patriarchs of other eastern Sees.
Then too the message from Jesus through Myrna on November 26,
2001, becomes all the more meaningful:
“. . . But the whole is incomplete without your unity at the altar. I
am giving you my Body and my Blood as a proof of my fidelity and love.
Receive from me this Sacrament with trust and faith, because this
Sacrament comforts you, provides you with strength and wisdom and
increases you in grace. . . .”
At a time of the great acts of terrorism [September 11, 2001], cred-
ited to extremists among Muslim people, but in no way representing the
Muslim people as a whole or the way they perceive Islam, it was a joy to
read in the book which this Patriarch of Antioch gave me, the following:
“The effect of the Christological controversies was disastrous to
church and state. By the close of the sixth century the Roman state
church of the East had been rent, and separated churches, Nestorian and
Monophysite, had been torn from it. Egypt and Syria were profoundly
disaffected toward the government and religion of Constantinople—a
Chapter 6. Interviews with Myrna and the Soufanieh Family
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fact that largely accounts for the rapid conquest of those lands by
Mohammedanism in the seventh century”—The Quest for Unity.
At the point of the interview with Myrna noted above, after the
question whether in the message there had been mention of the Holy
Eucharist, there came into the house of Soufanieh a young adult
Protestant man and a beautiful Greek Orthodox woman, 29 and 27
years of age respectively. They were from America and had come to
Soufanieh to pray to Our Lord and Our Lady. The young man recog-
nized that I was a priest from America. He came over and sat beside me
announcing, “I am Protestant. She is Greek Orthodox.” At this point I
explained to him that for Protestants the Apostolic Chain had been
broken. Thus their ministers did not have the supernatural powers of
the Priesthood of Jesus Christ to effect the Real Presence of Jesus
Christ in the Holy Eucharist. He listened intensely and told me he
would think about all this.
“How much time did you spend in Fatima?” I asked Myrna.
“I was in Fatima for three days in January 1998. I met Sr. Lucia one
time for a short time.”
“How did that happen that you met Sr. Lucia?”
“Mother Prioress of Carmel in Coimbra, Portugal, asked me to tell
her and the Novice Mistress about Our Lady of Soufanieh. When I
started, the Prioress stopped me and went to invite all of the sisters to
come and hear me. All of them came. When I was telling about the
Virgin of Soufanieh, sometimes the sisters reminded me of something
about Soufanieh I had forgotten to say. They had already read a book
about Soufanieh.
“Sr. Lucia was not present. I was told that she was sick and in bed.
Mother Prioress then gave me a rosary as a gift from Sr. Lucia. When I
finished the talk to the sisters on Our Lady of Soufanieh I led the
Rosary for the sisters. While we were on the road driving to Coimbra a
friend had taught me how to pray the Rosary in Portuguese so I could
lead the Rosary in Portuguese for the sisters.
“Then I sang the Lourdes Ave for the sisters at Coimbra and while
singing oil came to my hands. The sisters put their hands through the
grill to touch the oil on my hands. I was with my translator who noticed
at that time an old sister looking from a partially open door while all the
sisters were getting the oil through the grill.
“Then the translator said to me: ‘Look, Sr. Lucia is looking toward
us through the partially open door.’ I looked and motioned to the
Mother Prioress to come. The prioress then goes to Sr. Lucia and tells
the people who were with me to leave. Then the Mother Prioress had
Sr. Lucia come in to the speak room. She had been listening behind the
door. They then opened a big window so that I could put my hands to
join hands with Sr. Lucia who wanted to be anointed with the oil.
“Sr. Lucia was smiling but I was trembling. I felt that I don’t deserve
Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
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this favor to meet Sr. Lucia. Oil was put on Sr. Lucia’s hands. I said to
Sr. Lucia ‘Pray for the Church, especially in the Orient, in the Middle
East and pray for the unity of the Church and for the unity of families
and for me.’
“I spoke this in English and the translator transposed into Portu-
guese. When Sr. Lucia understood what I was saying she nodded and
smiled. I could have stayed longer with Sr. Lucia but out of respect and
awe I did not.”
One day while I was asking Myrna questions, such as the above
questions, to gain an understanding for this book on Soufanieh, four
women came into the Soufanieh House from Sri Lanka. They were
Buddhist and prayed before the Icon but soon one woman began to act
as if she were having an epileptic seizure. She would make different
rapid, almost violent movements. She even threw herself on the floor.
Nicolas said to me, “You need to pray over her.”
With the rapid swinging of her arms I was surprised she did not
harm the Icon enclosed in a glass globe as her jerking arms came close
to it. I prayed over her as did Myrna too. Calmness came over her and
then she said, “I feel better.” The woman having the seizures then came
and sat beside me. I asked her to repeat after me a short prayer to Jesus,
St. Michael and St. Raphael the Archangels. She did without hesitation.
Others present were frightened but Myrna did not seem to be. The
other women said that the lady with the affliction had been traveling out
of country and since she came home she has had this affliction. The
three left calmly and it was the last I heard of them.
We can see in the above accounts the simplicity and humility of
Myrna. She is in awe at meeting Sr. Lucia and does not feel that she
should take special time with her. It seems that Sr. Lucia, already
advanced in age, learning that Myrna was a guest to all the sisters,
arose to come to the speak room too, even if only from behind the par-
tially opened door. That the Carmelites were informed about
Soufanieh was in evidence while Myrna was delivering an account to
them as the Sisters would tell Myrna what she had forgotten as they
had already read about it.
I was impressed with the common faith which I as a Roman Catho-
lic priest shared with the Soufanieh community in Damascus. The
Catholics were Melkite rite Catholics and of course Orthodox would be
present too when I spoke to the people through a translator. Some
understood English. The homilies I gave were obviously expressing the
same faith as they had.
At the Sacrifice of the Mass which I celebrated at the Soufanieh
house on September 14, the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, besides
others from Damascus there were about 70 people present who had come
from Iran and Iraq. I mentioned that the Pope had said upon becoming
pope in his first address to the world from the balcony of St. Peter’s
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Fox. Light from the East—Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh
Basilica, “Be not afraid. Be not afraid to open the doors to Christ.” And
this is what the Virgin told Myrna—to open the doors of their home to
all who wanted to come to Christ there. I noted that Myrna and Nicolas
have, after the initiation of the Soufanieh supernatural events, carried
their cross with acceptance in joy. Since doing so, Nicolas acknowledged
a great peace he experiences in their home, the house of the Virgin.
It was impressive to see that September 14 for these Christians was
also in their divine Liturgy of the eastern rite, the feast of the Exultation
of the Cross. The young people had a special way to celebrate this day.
They shot off firecrackers.
On Sunday, September 16, 2001, I met the Archpriest or Arch-pas-
tor George Jilo at St. Elias Church in Damascus. This church is a short
walking distance from the Soufanieh home. He had just finished the
divine liturgy for Sunday. He came from the sacristy to meet me. He
asked me in a rather direct manner, “What did you want to know?” I had
not expected him to start the conversation this way and was taken by
surprise. Not being able to think of any other question, and knowing
how open the Orthodox Syriac Patriarch had been to me, but having no
information on this archpriest I responded to him with this question:
“Do you believe in Soufanieh?” His response was rather abrupt. “What
kind of question is that? Who would not believe in her.” And he turned
and walked away from me.
I then learned that this archpriest was the first with his archbishop
to see the oil on November 27, 1982, which was the first time of the mir-
acle of the oil. He had come with Archbishop Bolos Bandaly.
Nicolas said: “We called them when it happened. The Icon used to
be kept in our bedroom. Both the archbishop and the archpriest took off
their shoes before entering the room where the icon was.”
In January, 1983 the Orthodox Patriarch decided to transfer the
Icon to the church. Forty-five days later two Orthodox priests brought
it back. They were authorized by the Patriarch to bring it back (see
Chapter 4).
When I responded to the Archpriest George Jilo at St. Elias
Church as I did, I was later informed, “He was afraid, he did not want
to get involved as he knew I was present to write a book on Soufanieh.
His Patriarch had told him not to get involved publicly.” At least I
learned that the Archpriest believed in Soufanieh. Also, it was an oppor-
tunity to see his beautiful Orthodox church.
Amidst meeting and interviewing people of the Soufanieh commu-
nity I was able to go to the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus where there
is a shrine reportedly where the head of St. John the Baptist is buried. It
was a Christian Basilica in early centuries before Islam largely took over
Syria. It is somewhat a miracle in itself that the limited number of
Christians have survived in Syria. That Jesus and his Mother have not
forgotten these good Christians is testified by the development of the
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Soufanieh family and the naturally unexplainable phenomena so fre-
quent since 1982. Pope John Paul II, while in Damascus May 2001, vis-
ited the Omayyad Mosque to pay tribute to St. John the Baptist. To
enter the mosque one must take off his shoes.
Fr. Boulos (Paul) Fadel, ordained in 1984 and a Catholic of the
Melkite rite, is now Myrna’s main spiritual director, since the death of
Fr. Malouli (March 5, 2000). He has known her since July, 1986. But
even before this time he went with her to Australia, Belgium, France,
Germany, etc. He would go along to help in whichever way he could. He
was always close to the hearts of Myrna and Nicolas. He answered my
questions as follows:
Have you always believed Soufanieh to be supernatural?
At first, no, because I lived in Lebanon. There was civil war there and so
many were saying “I have seen Mary.” With so many false mystics I
thought Soufanieh is only another one of them.
In 1986 I left Lebanon and came here to see and hear all what was
happening. I concluded that God is truly in this home. Why? For three
reasons: 1. There is prayer here. 2. The house is always open. 3. No
money is accepted. I came to Soufanieh and could see this home was
open then already for four years. I saw that it was open to all, and that
no money or donations were requested or accepted.
How often do you speak to Myrna of spiritual things?
Whenever we meet, or by phone when she has questions to ask. Also
when I go with her when she is invited to other countries.
Do you agree that Soufanieh is for the holiness of the family as well as for
union of the churches?
The main idea is that there be unity of the Church and then to bring the
whole world to unity in Jesus Christ. In the Arabic world the Church is
based on the family, the family which is the basic unit of society. To have
unity of the Church we must have unity in families. Unity of the fami-
ly means first that every true family is based on love, faith, sacrifice and
communication. If millions of families are living true Christian lives, the
Church would become united.
In the Arabic world the divisions like Orthodox, Catholic, Syriac,
etc., we don’t call them divisions but families. We don’t speak of divisions
but of families. Every family has its own personality. By using the word
family we exclude the word division. We try to soften the impact of the
word division.
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When you say “we,” who do you mean?
In oriental theology, the word “community” means family. Before divi-
sions we called every Church a “family” and every community was called
a “family.” Here the family means every Church has its own personality,
customs, etc. For this reason the new language we use for conversations
and dialogue among Christians is “family” because to love demands to
respect differences. This spirit is growing among the churches. One of
the biggest obstacles to the unity of the Church is where there is not
respect for each other.
It was the Second Vatican Council which started this spirit. It was
a great step but they did not secure the Oriental Church, this includes
Catholic Orientals.
How does Myrna fit into all this?
Myrna comes in at this very point. Everyone comes to Soufanieh to pray.
All kinds of Christians and even Muslims come to pray at Soufanieh.
Many people pray and their prayers are centered on unity.
Do you think all these different kinds of people who are praying, pray for unity
or personal favors?
Concerning Myrna she is not aware of all the complex issues but she
believes, since God asked for unity.
Myrna who was listening to this interview joined in at this time and
added: “Certainly the people who come pray for personal things but
when they learn what is the meaning of Soufanieh they pray for unity.
You see the messages painted on the walls (circling the main room where
the Icon is and where people pray). All these messages concern unity, so
they do learn of unity here.”
Fr. Fadel, how do you see the mission of Myrna?
Myrna is similar to the first apostles. She holds Jesus and the ideal of
Christianity in her heart and desires everyone to know about it. The
truth of unity exists in her heart. She goes throughout the world to give
the message of unity of the Church. She does not know what will
become of all this.
Do you think something is going to explode among Muslims to bring them to
Christ Jesus?
Muslims love the Virgin Mary. They must get something in their heart
from all this.
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Each day mail comes from people who don’t know the address. They
simply write on the envelope, “Lady of Soufanieh,” “House of Mary,” or,
“House of the Virgin,” —Damascus, and it gets here.
I noticed at the Soufanieh House many holy cards are given out
with images of the Icon on one side and two prayers on the reverse side.
The cards are often covered with plastic to make them durable.
The Soufanieh family, informed of the origin of these prayers, prays
them each evening when people from the community come to the
Virgin’s Home to pray. They are also recited daily by many throughout
the world.
The top prayer was given by the Virgin when Fr. Malouli was pray-
ing for enlightenment. The lower part of the prayer was given by Jesus
on Ascension Thursday, May 31, 1984, as a prayer.
The Icon had just been returned to the Soufanieh home and Nicolas
was angry because of the way it was returned. It had been taken to the
church in a solemn manner. Fr. Malouli was praying for enlightenment
as to what we should do. Myrna was called by the Virgin to go upstairs
to the terrace and the Virgin gave Fr. Malouli the answer which forms
the top part of the prayer on the card: “God saves me, Jesus enlightens me,
the Holy Spirit is my life, this is why I fear nothing.”
What does the Virgin’s prayer mean? God works things out. Often
we want to take things in our own hands and think things should be
worked out differently. We do not save ourselves. We must simply be
willing instruments of Jesus and let him work out the details. God is the
one who saves us by sending us Jesus, the Light of the world. The Holy
Spirit which is the Soul of the Church, dwells in us by grace which is a
sharing in the life of God. Keep this in mind and fear nothing.
The longer prayer, second on the card, came from Jesus Christ on
Ascension Day, May 31, 1984, but first Jesus said:
“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, con-
tented 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: [then is given the lower prayer of the card]
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Grant that I rest in you above anything else,
above all creation,
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 may table is empty.
The above prayer card as distributed at Soufanieh has slight differ-
ences in translations from Arabic than is often seen in the United States
and Canada. For instance, “anything else” is rendered as “all things” and
“all creation” is rendered “all creatures.” The official message with the
above prayer adds: “Only then will I come to say ‘Here I am’ because you
have invited me.”
The prayer card adds the short prayer from another message,
“O Father, through the merits of your Son’s wounds, save us.”
When I was asked if I was praying to experience the oil at Soufanieh
while I was there, I thought, “I believe in Soufanieh without witnessing
the oil. I’ve talked to the Orthodox Archbishop who experienced it, to
the Orthodox Syriac Patriarch who witnessed it, to Fr. Zahlaoui, who
witnessed it, and others: ‘Dear Lord, dear Mother, if you want me to
witness the oil so that your Soufanieh message will be more credible and
effective through the book I am to write, that is your concern, your deci-
sion, not mine. I accept either way. And I will go home content that you
are working here.’”
On the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, which is a major feast
for Christians of Eastern Catholic and Orthodox rites, I spoke of Adam
and Eve and their sin and that there had caused an infinite gap between
God and man as a result. The sin was of infinite malice, not that man
could do anything infinite, but the One against whom mankind had
sinned, was the infinite God. The reparation, the satisfaction needed,
must be of infinite value. And it must be done by man because man had
committed the offense.
What was needed was one who was both God and man. Jesus
Christ is the answer. Jesus Christ bridged the infinite gap between
heaven and earth, between God and man by dying on the Cross to
redeem us, to save us from sin. Since Jesus is God he can make infinite
satisfaction. Since Jesus is also man, in Jesus Christ a man makes the
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satisfaction. The God-Man bridges the infinite gap between heaven
and earth.
One of the Soufanieh community had asked me, “Father, are you
not praying that while you are in Damascus and at the Virgin’s House,
that you will witness the miracle of the oil?”
I answered, “Not really. I believe in Soufanieh and it suffices for me
the testimonies I have heard.” I did not know that I would deserve to
witness such. I’ve talked to the Orthodox Archbishop who experienced
it, to the Orthodox Syriac Patriarch who witnessed it, to Fr. Zahlaoui,
who witnessed it, and others. ‘Dear Lord, dear Mother, if you want me
to witness the oil so that your Soufanieh message will be more credible
and effective through the book I am to write, that is your concern, your
decision, not mine. I accept either way. And I will go home content that
you are working here.’”
My interviews with Myrna were on various days in September, 2001
whenever she was free to talk with me.
“Do you suffer pain of the wounds often, even outside of Holy
Week when the wounds are not visible?” I asked Myrna.
At this question Myrna looked most surprised, opening her eyes
widely. She appeared a little bewildered at how to answer.
“Yes, but no one knows about this [until now] except my spiritual
guide. It happens especially when someone hurts me, insults me, or I see
someone ill. When I feel this pain God reminds me of his sufferings and
pain. It happens if someone is really suffering and I cannot do anything,
like when I go to the hospital to visit the sick.
“From time to time there is pain, God reminds me of His sufferings
then. He told me, ‘whatever you suffer is nothing compared to Jesus’ suf-
ferings for humanity.’”
Meditating on Myrna’s response, I thought what a beautiful way the
Lord is forming Myrna to be united with Christ Crucified. In the morn-
ing offering we are to offer up all our prayers, works, joys and sufferings
of the day in union with the Sacrifice of the Mass (which is the same as
that of the Cross) throughout the world. When Myrna is hurt, the Lord
reminds her to unite her suffering to that of Jesus. When she sees oth-
ers suffering, she is reminded that Christ Jesus is suffering in them.
I then reviewed a bit of simple history as about ten years previously.
I had written of Soufanieh in the Messenger magazine of which I am edi-
tor: “Myrna, about ten years ago you told me by phone, ‘I love Our Lady
of Fatima so much.’ Now you have gone to Fatima. Tell me about it.”
“I’ve been to Rue de Bac [miraculous medal], to Lourdes and
Fatima. At Rue de Bac I felt the presence of Mary and prayed from the
bottom of my heart. I went to Lisieux [St. Thérèse—Little Flower] and
to the place of Curé d’Ars also. At Lourdes—I do not say anything bad
Chapter 6. Interviews with Myrna and the Soufanieh Family
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about it—I could not pray there except at the grotto (where the Mother
of God appeared). This was because there were too many people who
don’t show respect for Our Lady, people who drank, smoked, small talk.
This was not done near the grotto.
“Of all the places I have been, I experienced Mary especially at
Fatima. I could see that everyone is there to pray and I cried, walking on
my knees [penitential path]. Fatima was for me the best place I went to.
I am pleased about youth praying at Fatima.”
[It was some days later, late in the evening, when immediately after
Mass with mostly youth present that I was telling about Fatima and how
I placed my hands on the very spot where Our Lady appeared and stood
at Fatima and offered my hands and heart for her service there. Now I
did the same thing at Soufanieh, in the upper terrace of apparitions, and
while I had my hands where Our Lady of Soufanieh stood, explaining
the similarities of Soufanieh and Fatima, Fr. Zahlaoui called to me that
Myrna’s hands were exuding oil.]
“Myrna, you have said that the messages are ongoing. Will you
“After Pope John Paul II came to Damascus in May 2001, getting
the idea from the Pope, every Tuesday night we have youth night for
prayer. Many youth come. We became so happy the Pope used my chal-
ice. These meetings start at 9:30 (when the youth can be present). We
have a prayer theme for the different nights. Sample of themes: ‘To love
God you must love one another.’
“When I was there for youth night September 17, 2001, the theme
was: ‘How to give yourself totally to God.’”
Myrna now returned to explain how her love for Our Lady of
Fatima was initiated.
“I started to love Our Lady of Fatima so much because I went to the
Church of Our Lady of Fatima here in Damascus. I was so attracted to
the statue of Fatima and loved Our Lady of Fatima so much through
that statue.”
Later Myrna took me by car to the Church of Our Lady of Fatima
in Damascus. It was a beautiful church and there was a shrine to Our
Lady of Fatima at the back of the church as well as a beautiful mosaic
background over the main altar at the front of the church (see p. 96).
The beautiful statue in the Fatima Shrine of the Church had come
from Fatima. The first month it was in Damascus, this statue reported-
ly shed tears.
I said to Myrna: “You said to me, ‘Not yet,’ when I asked you about
the Soufanieh messages speaking about the Eucharist. It seems to imply
that later messages will concern the Holy Eucharist. How do you know
“It is a feeling deep inside of me. In the last message Jesus told me:
‘I will never leave you’ and he asked me to pray, pray. It is like this that I
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can hear Jesus inside me.”
“Have you received any message regarding my book and intention
to talk about Soufanieh on television [EWTN]?”
“When I first met you I said a whole Rosary that the book would
be for the glory of God and Mary and not for me. I know God works
through you. I know you will be helped because in one message Jesus
told me, ‘Don’t choose your way; I’ve chosen it for you.’”
“In October, 2001 there will be a big conference in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania for unity. The former papal nuncio of Damascus will be
there, Bishop Luigi Accogli. He is now at the Vatican.” [The meeting
had to be cancelled because of traveling restrictions so soon after the
World Trade Center destruction, September 11, 2001].
Myrna then stressed with me that had the Soufanieh events started
before she was married she would have remained celibate and became a
religious sister. “For one year after the events started we (Nicolas and
Myrna) lived as brother and sister. I thought it was not right to make
love with Nicolas. Then the Virgin Mother told me, ‘You are to live a
normal married life.’ Later Mary said, ‘I am giving you a gift.’” The gift
was her daughter Miriam.
Myrna had earlier told me that Soufanieh concerned holiness of
family life, for Jesus had told her, “Deepen your life as a wife, mother and
Chapter 6. Interviews with Myrna and the Soufanieh Family
Pope John Paul II embraces His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I, Prince
Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Supreme Head of the universal Syrian Orthodox
Church, as the Patriarch arrives at the Vatican in Rome.
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