Sermon delivered at the end of the mass celebrated
by His Excellency, the Apostolic Nuncio in Syria,
Mgr. Pier Giacomo de Nicolo,
at the Latin church for the Franciscans in Bab-Touma (Damascus)

Damascus, November 27th, 1998.


My dear brothers and sisters,

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 Mgr. Antoine Hamid Mourani, Maronite archbishop, Mgr. Joseph Arnaouti, Armenian Catholic archbishop, Mgr. Isidore Battikha, Melkite Catholic Patriarchal Vicar and Mgr. 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 phenomenons 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 judgement of the Church, but we simply appeal to a prudent Christian discernment, 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 Theotokos, 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 and not uprooted beings without future.

Let us thank Him for having chosen Damascus in order to show the strength of His Mercy, the way he showed it two thousand years ago, when Saint 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, Saviour, 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 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 obvious 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.