My dear brothers in Christ,
The beautiful festivities of the 12th anniversary of Soufanieh are well
worth this circular which, I imagine, you are eager to receive. This circular
will therefore include the prayers of this anniversary along with a bunch
of little items of news which, I am sure, will not disappoint you.
(A) CELEBRATION of the 12 th ANNIVERSARY
Let us first mention that this anniversary has triggered a very beautiful initiative: three students in their third year at the Academy of Arts, have painted a huge enlargement (1.90 m x 2.60 m) of Our Lady of Soufanieh, to offer it to the "House of the Virgin".
From now on, She occupies a big part of the patio wall, from where She protects under her shadow all the worshippers in prayer. Furthermore only one of those promising artists is Christian. Talk about a symbol...
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, Switzerland, Guinea and Egypt...
Should we also neglect letters, telegrams, faxes and telephones 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, this 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 25th November, 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 compact and feverish crowd filled up the church, at the head of which one could see the Nuncio, His Excellency Mgr Pier Giacomo de Nicolo.
A large icon of Soufanieh adorned with flowers stood in front of the Iconostasis. Two choirs, the one of the Church and Choeur-Joie, were in charge of singing the hymns during Mass. 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.
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 away the hymns inspired by Soufanieh. The homily of Mgr 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 Mgr Coueter in his visit to His Holiness Zakka 1st, the Syrian-Orthodox Patriarch. This visit which lasted over one hour centered around the subject of Unity. Everyone knows that His Holiness is a big promoter of Soufanieh.
Saturday November 26th
Originally scheduled for 17:00 hours, the prayer started one hour earlier, because of the dense crowd which was filling the house and overflowed onto the street.
I led the prayer with Father Paul Fadel. Then arrived one after the other, Mgr Bahnan Jijawi, Syrian-Orthodox bishop of Jerusalem and the Nuncio. Both stood in front of the miraculous Icon. Bishop Jijawi sang, read the Gospel and delivered a warm speech on Unity. As for the Nuncio, he sang two hymns to the Virgin. The second one in Arabic and of his own composition, started this way: "O Mother of Soufanieh, pray for us". Towards 19.15 hours, the oil filled up the hands of Myrna and circled her eyes, so much so that she was unable to see anything for a few minutes. The emotion of people was such that they were painstakingly able to carry on with the prayers and hymns that were being led especially by the "Choir of Unity" arrived from Beirut and founded by the Abbott George Battikha.
That same Saturday evening, prayer carried on, at the rhythm of the usual or improvised invocations, punctuated by the alternate songs from the "Choir of Unity" and "Coeur-Joie". At 23.00 hours, a pause was decided to cut the anniversary cake. At the moment Myrna was holding the knife to cut the cake, a beautiful scented oil inundated both her hands... Prayers and songs resumed ever more.
As for me, I left the House of the Virgin at 0.30 hours, leaving many people there still praying.
Sunday November 27th, anniversary day of Soufanieh
I was celebrating the baptism of a small Lebanese girl. Myrna had been requested to be her Godmother and Father Paul Fadel, the Godfather. Just at the end of the ceremony, while we were singing the well known hymn celebrating Christ baptism, oil covered both hands of Myrna.
On Monday 28th, a group of Greek pilgrims visited Soufanieh accompanied by a relative of Nicolas who live 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 jerked 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 family during all their stay in Canada (June - July 1993).
Will we ever thank enough our Lord Jesus and His Mother Full of Grace, for so much of these signs that are nothing else than the signature so to speak, of His Presence and His Love?...
It goes without saying that all those prayers were continually recorded very closely by several cameras and video-cameras. But I must mention the presence, day and night, of Télé-Lumière, a Lebanese religious television station founded by the well-known "Brother Nour" (Nour = Light) in Beirut and who had received Myrna and myself during three long interviews, and throughout two Masses, respectively celebrated at the Maronites in Beirut and at the Greek-Catholics in Tyre, between the 15th and the 18th September 1994.
(B) OTHER RAPID NEWS OF SOUFANIEH
This portion of the circular will allow you to participate somewhat to the rhythm of Soufanieh to praise the Lord and the Virgin Mary and to support us with your prayers.
(1) Permanence of the message of the Holy Virgin of 26th November 1990
You will remember that the Holy Virgin had told Myrna, on that day, among other things :
(2) Permanent welcoming in the strictest gratuity
The house 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 simple, frank and discreet at the same time. Without any whisper, even from the old mother of Nicolas who hurt her knee badly during a fall just before the 12th anniversary. She has accepted this accident with a smile, with one regret: not being able to help with the cleaning of the house, for this exceptional circumstance. One cannot explain the secret stamina of Myrna, Nicolas and his mother, without discovering the presence of God Himself. Among the countless visitors, one should mention the Nuncio, Mgr Pier Giacomo de Nicolo, Mgr Georges Coueter, Greek-Catholic bishop of Sidon (Lebanon), Mgr George Riachi, Greek-Catholic bishop of Australia. The latter expressed his very strong wish to see Myrna go back to Australia for a second stay, since the first one had proved so fruitful.
(C) MYRNA'S TRIPS
The travelling of Myrna in Syria, although numerous, have become her daily lot. However, one of them is worth a special mention: her stay is Aleppo from 25th to 29th May 1994. She prayed there in two different churches: St-George Greek-Catholic church and the one of the Salesian Fathers. In the first one, prayer was presided by Mgr Neophytos Edelby, Greek-Catholic Bishop and attended by a vast crowd. When the oil appeared on Myrna's hands, the rush was unprecedented. Bishop Edelby echoed this visit by sending the following telegram on the 12th anniversary:
As for the other travels of Myrna outside Syria, one must mention that since her trip to Canada between 9th June and 13th July 1993 (with a very discreet and fruitful stop over of 8 days in France between 1st June and 8th June), she travelled to Australia on an extensive visit from August 19th to September 19th, 1993, under the patronage of Bishop George Riachi, and always in his company.
Since then, and apart from two intended long trips, one in Central America and Canada, the other one in Italy, and for which Myrna excused herself at the last minute, her other trips do not exceed the boundaries of Egypt, Lebanon, Cyprus and Jordan. Whether she be invited by an ecclesiastic authority or by laity, all her trips are occupied by prayer, both public and private. An additional spiritual and human link is then added to the immense network that the Lord and His All Blessed Mother are weaving since many years from Soufanieh.
(D) DIFFUSION OF THE MESSAGE OF SOUFANIEH
What are the means at our disposal to spread the message of Soufanieh? I will detail hereafter what has been realised so far and what we hope to achieve in the future.
At the level of publications:
- Several articles have been published in various Arabic and foreign magazines. It would be fastidious to list them here.
- The French neurologist Philippe Loron has published in 1992 the following title which was edited by l'OEIL: "Medical constat and scientific analysis of the events of Soufanieh, 12 - 16 March 1990".
- A Peruvian person called Venizio Urdaneta has published in 1992 a book in Spanish entitled "The Miracle of Damascus". This book has been re-edited in Salvador.
- A Dutch Benedictine monk, Father Joannès Touw, has published in 1994, a booklet, in Dutch and French called "Testimony".
At the level of video-cassettes:
- In Canada, Mr. Gabriel Berberian, has filmed and edited a video-cassette on the trip of Myrna to Canada (June - July 1993).
- A video-cassette has been produced in Australia on Myrna's trip on that continent in 1993.
- Mr. Gabriel Berberian has filmed and edited a video-cassette on the eleventh anniversary of Soufanieh in Damascus.
- Father Joannès Touw has produced a film on Soufanieh based on the events that he has lived himself in Damascus, also from video-cassettes relating to earlier events in Soufanieh. This video-cassette is accompanied with a commentary in Dutch which has also been translated into French on a separate leaflet.
At the level of Audio-cassettes:
- The choir of Coeur-Joie in Damascus has recorded a cassette all inspired by Soufanieh, and this on the occasion of its tenth anniversary in 1992.
- Miss Colette Dargham has recorded with Myrna a cassette containing songs and part of the Soufanieh messages, during Myrna's trip in Canada, in 1993.
- "The Children of Soufanieh" in Canada have recorded a new cassette embodying the contents of the aforementioned cassette along with some of the hymns that Myrna or the choir of the Syrian-Orthodox Church in Montreal have sung in Montreal. This cassette is only a few months old.
2. Projects in mind for the near future:
At the level of publications:
- My friend Adib Mousleh has just finished the translation into Arabic of my book "Souvenez-vous de Dieu" ("Remember God") and is now ready for publication.
- My other book "Chronicles ..." has already been translated in Russian, thanks to some special and very providential circumstances. I have entrusted its printing to some friends while requesting them to work, as much as possible, towards its free distribution; however difficult this may prove in the Western Society.
Let me also outline the fact that I refrained myself from collecting any royalties from my two French books "Chronicles" and "Remember God". I had already advised my publisher about it. I declare it without pretense, so that those who read this may say it and repeat it. Furthermore, I must confess that my publisher, Mr. F-Xavier de Guisbert, has had the courage of publishing these books on his own and at his own risk and expense.
- The German translation of "Chronicles" is still going on. Father Adel Khoury, ex-Dean of the Faculty of Theology of Münster, has taken upon him the initiative of translating and publishing them.
- I must also point out that I am preparing an Arabic publication of the 2nd volume on Soufanieh. It will include, amongst other things, the main testimonies spread out over a twelve year span. I hope that our Lady will provide us with a benefactor to enable us distribute it gratuitously, as is the case for the first volume.
- We also have a project to publish in several languages, although separately, a brief and complete outline on Soufanieh. Our friends from Canada came up with this idea. The Arabic text is ready and the translations of this text into French, English, Dutch and Italian, are on their way. This brief outline will include, apart from the history and the essentials of the message, a complete translation of all the messages as well as some photos illustrating the phenomenon. Could we hope that these publications will be distributed free of charge? It is our deep desire here in Damascus.
- Father Joannès Touw is preparing a theological study on Soufanieh
seen from the theological and psychological angle. He just completed a
stay in Damascus, from 10th to 30th October, with the aim of preparing
- In Canada, Australia and Holland, Associations of Our Lady of Soufanieh were formed and became active under different denominations. They all lead to an intense activity which centers everything around prayer, gratuity and the Unity of the Church.
- Without a formal appellation, a somewhat intense activity revolves around Soufanieh, in Egypt, Germany and specially Lebanon.
- It has therefore appeared necessary to the many worshippers of Soufanieh, in Damascus as well as in most of the countries just mentioned and from where I just came back, to create a link between those various associations already deeply united through prayers and their desire for Unity. At first, this link will manifest itself through a leaflet of two or more pages that would emanate from Damascus and would relate the life of Soufanieh in Damascus and its different ramifications. This text would be published every two months initially. Will we know where this will lead us to ? Let the Spirit of the Lord flow on us and let us pray.
I take this opportunity to mention that Mr. Gabriel Berbérian from Canada has sojourned eight days in the house of Mr. Daoud Hanna. He came back to Montreal with many hours of video-cassettes from which he has edited a very moving film.
Many of you know that the image of Our Lady of Soufanieh oozes oil here and there. The list would be too long to make. But it would still be very useful that you let us know should this happen. Apart from the prayer which it triggers, such facts could one day help the cause of Soufanieh.
An invitation to prayer? Of course...
A thanksgiving prayer to the Lord and to the Holy Virgin?
This brief piece of news although very significant for those who know the environment of Soufanieh in Damascus:
Isn't this Presence and reflection of Christmas? And to all of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I say: Live the Advent, Christmas and the New Year in the Joy and Hope of faith and all the other days at the feet of Jesus and Mary.
Father Elias Zahlaoui
Damascus, 3 December 1994
Father Elias Zahlaoui
Eglise Notre-Dame de Damas
Fax: (Attention Father Zahlaoui : 00963-11-2245816)