My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
A year ago, you received my annual report on Soufanieh. I suppose that this one too is eagerly awaited. I will start with the 14th anniversary to end it with the 15th.
1. The Declaration is issued by His Excellency, Msgr. Isidore Battikha, Greek-Catholic Patriarchal vicar.
During the solemn mass he celebrated on Sunday 25th November 1996, in St-Joseph's church, in the parish of Douela in Damascus, during the 14th anniversary of Soufanieh, Msgr. Isidore started his homely with the following words: " My beloved ones, This evening, before celebrating mass, I was thinking about what the Samaritan 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".
2. The Coincidence : It happened with Radio London in Arabic. In the morning of November 27, 1997, Radio London presented a cultural program, directed by Mr. Mounir Obeid, regarding the "Choeur-Joie" choir which had just given a very appreciated recital at Cinema Zahra in Damascus, on October 27. At the end of the program, the presenter couldn't find anything better to offer his listeners than to air the following hymn, which is simply the message given to Myrna by the Virgin Mary, on the eve of August 14, 1985 the words of which were set to music by one of the choristers. " This is my feast: 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". I let you interpret this "coincidence" the way you like ...
II- MAIN EVENTS IN 1997
1. Continuity of prayer in absolute gratuitousness
A. Everyone knows that the "House of the Virgin" is always open to prayers, without any time restriction. As a matter of fact, what had been announced in a previous report, namely to change the hours of prayers to enable Myrna and Nicolas rest somewhat, never materialized. Although a "decision" was taken, both of them have deemed it impossible to close the door of their house to the visitors. Despite Father Malouli's insistence as well as mine, we had to submit to their wish.
B. The common and daily prayer is always ecumenical. It takes place in the evening, at a set time, preceded by the rosary. This prayer is inspired by the prayer books of all the churches... of course, a margin of improvisation is always offered to whoever desires it.
2. Celebration of the Holy Mass :
Since mid-September, I celebrate mass, every Saturday afternoon, at the "House of the Virgin" in the patio, at the time of the common prayer. It also happens that passing priests celebrate mass in the chapel on the roof where the apparitions took place. It is worth mentioning that a "foreign" bishop celebrated mass there, one month before the 15th anniversary. Monsignor Michel Saydé, from Canada, was also there. Oil exuded from the hands of Myrna, at the end of the mass. My duty for discretion compells me to keep the name of this bishop silent.
3. Myrna’s travels :
A. Short trips
Those occured when Myrna, her two children and myself, travelled to France, Canada and specially to the United States, between June 4 and July 9, 1997.
The same as the year before, Doctor Georges Tinawi, a Syrian doctor living in San Francisco, initiated the trip both from a managerial and a financial point of view.
Here is the itinerary, outlining the main events: Paris, New York, Boston, Miami, Detroit, Montreal, San Francisco, Paris, Damascus. The whole trip was under the auspices of the local religious authorities. We are always vigilant on this point.
- In France: In the Val d'Oise region, there were three celebrations
. The first one, mass of profession of faith, celebrated by Father René Fromont in his parish of Esmery-Hallon. Father Pierre Damien was concelebrating.
. The second one, meditating the Rosary with the Beatitudes Community in Vaumoise, accompanied by testimonies. Big crowd. Fathers René Laurentin, Pierre Marie and Charles Clavier were present there.
. The third one, a mass celebrated by Fathers Joseph Besnier, Louis Lebrun and René Fromont. Also present was Father Boulos Fadel who came from Belgium. This mass was celebrated in the house of the Fourmann family who welcomed us at Villers sur Coudun.
. The first one: a byzantine mass, at the Ste Anne Paterson church (New Jersey) with Father Sami Baroudi, a Greek-catholic priest.
. The second one: a byzantine mass at the Three Hierarchs Hellenic Orthodox church in Brooklyn, with Archmandrite Eugene N. Pappas, on Orthodox Pentecoast day. This mass was videotaped and is available upon request.
. The third one: Vespers celebrated with Fathers Fred Sato, Greek-catholic, in the Yonkers Ukrainian church.
. The first one : Solemn mass celebrated by Fathers Martin Hyat, Antoine Nachef and Simon Hajj, in the church of St-Basile Convent, in Methuen.
. The second one: Solemn mass celebrated at the Greek-Catholic church of Our Lady of Annunciation, by the Parish priest Father Fred Kikati.
In Boston, we had the joy of meeting Msgr. Joseph Tawil who has always supported Soufanieh as well as Msgr. Adel Ilia. We were also gratified at their table and prayed with them. It is also in Boston that we had to part with an extraordinary "friend" which is no one else than the ecumenical choir formed in the parish of Paterson under the impetus of Soufanieh and which insisted to accompany us during all the celebrations in the New York and Boston areas. May Our Lady of Soufanieh who has gathered them, also keep them and bless them.
The next mass took place in Miami. It was celebrated by the parish priest, Msgr. John Stevensky as well as by six other Ukrainians priests. That day, it was scorching hot. And yet, Msgr. John Stevensky, while welcoming us at the airport at 4:15 p.m. assured us that the faithful had started flocking since 1:00 p.m. The mass started at 5:00 p.m. We were not able to leave the church before 9:30 p.m. because the sign of the oil manifested itself through the hands of Myrna with abundance. Everyone insisted being annointed, deep emotion, followed by an unforgettable meeting with all the concelebrating priests at the home of Father Stevensky.
Next morning, we flew to Detroit. There, two
celebrations occured, the same day:
. The first one: Hymn of the Paraklisis, at 2:30 p.m., at the Greek-Orthodox church with Father Georges Chalhoub.
. The second one: Solemn mass at the Maronite church with Msgr. Joseph Féghali and Father Antoine Saad at 7:30 p.m.
During these two ceremonies, oil manifested itself on the hands of Myrna, with an astonishing punctuality. Let me mention it without elaborating.
. The first one : Vespers at the Copt-Orthodox church of St-George and St-Joseph
. The second one: Solemn mass at the St-Joseph's Oratory (Roman Catholic)
. The third one: Solemn mass at the Syrian Catholic church of St-Ephrem, with Msgr. Pierre Melki and Father Georges Sakkal. We also celebrated mass twice at the home of the Sara family (Emile and Marie) who had welcomed us in Montreal.
We also participated in Montreal to two radio programs, one in Arabic with Mrs. Colette Dargham, another one in French with simultaneous translation, at Radio Ville-Marie with Gilbert Charron.
Two T.V. interviews as well : one for a well-known program "Second Regard", the other one with Mr. André Rostvorowski, president of the religious catholic cable-TV programming organization: Rassemblement à Son Image.
Back to the United States, in San Francisco, where we celebrated three times the Eucharist:
. The first one: Latin mass concelebrated by six priests, one of whom was a monk from the Convent of Transfiguration of Redwood Valley. This mass was destined to a group of laity, in charge of apostolic movements, in the home of one of them.
. The second one: Byzantine mass at the Greek-Orthodox church of San José, with Father Georges Hanna.
. The third one : Latin mass with Father Dean McFalls in his parish of St. Luke in Stockton.
We also celebrated the ACATHIST prayers at Fremont with the Greek-Catholic priest, Father James Graham.
Oil exuded throughout all those ceremonies. It was in Fremont that we were surprised to see the book of doctor Antoine Mansour, from Los Angeles, translated into Vietnamese. The translator himself asked me the authorization to also translate into Vietnamese my book "Remember God". Needless to let you know what my answer was. It is only later that I noticed that I should have first obtained my Paris publisher's authorization. May he forgive me because I only remembered it while writing this report.
Our last stop was Paris, for one afternoon and one night. We spent it at Sainte Geneviève des Bois, at the home of the Amouroux, new friends bestowed on us by Our Lady of Soufanieh.
On the evening of my arrival, we celebrated a byzantine mass, in the parish church which bears the name of the Holy Vicar of Ars. Two priests were concelebrating with me: A Syrian one, Father Aref Marjani, who had come from Belgium and Father Charles Clavier, himself a Belgian.
There also, the Holy Virgin kept the promess She made to Myrna on the eve of November 16th , 1990 : "As for the oil, it will continue to manifest itself on your hands to glorify my Son Jesus, whenever He wishes and wherever you go".
Let it be remembered that throughout those travels, the concern for prayer and testimony, in absolute gratuitousness, remains our unique priority.
This expansion occurs from several angles:
1. Books already printed: in Arabic, French, English, Spanish, German, Dutch. As far as we are concerned, everything is distributed freely.
2. Other books are in preparation: in Arabic, Dutch, French and Vietnamese.
3. Let us mention the English translation of the book of the French journalist Christian Ravaz, for sale in the United States at a reasonable price.
4. The following books on the are already on the Internet:
. "Remember God" in French and English.
. "The Virgin elects a home" by Antoine Makdisi, in French, translated by sister Afifa Gaith, a Syrian nun working in Tunisia.
. "The Apparitions in Damascus" by Christian Ravaz, in French and English.
. "A Sign from Heaven - Soufanieh" by Dr. Adel T. Khoury, in German.
1. The ones filmed in Soufanieh itself, without any editing.
2. The ones produced by professionals of Syrian, Lebanese and Canadian T.V.
3. The ones taken by amateurs from Syria, France and Canada.
4. The ones also filmed during Myrna's travels in Lebanon, France, Canada and the United States.
C. The audio-cassettes
1. The one recorded in Canada with Mrs Colette Dargham, in 1993.
2. The one produced by Father Rizkallah Semaan and who composed the words and lyrics and which is entitled "A bit of love".
3. The one produced by the Beirut Choir "Our Lady of Unity" founded by Father Georges Battikha. This choir also composed the words and lyrics.
4. Finally, the one produced by Choeur-Joie in 1992 and entitled "Soufanieh".
D. The visits
1. We notice the increase of visitors from the Arab world, especially from Lebanon, thanks perhaps to regular broadcasts by the religious Lebanese T.V: "Télé-Lumière".
2. Increase also of foreign visitors especially from France, where some include in their official program a paragraph concerning the visit to Soufanieh. Othes write long articles when they return.
In the heart of this correspondence, two basic elements: First, Unity through prayer, some times daily, at the same hour of prayer in Damascus and two, the yearly report, like this one.
1. The friends from Canada, thanks especially to Gabriel Berberian, have built the Soufanieh site, which has been in operation since Christmas 1996. What is the Internet?
It is a vast audio-visual, worldwide, electronic library, available seven days a week, 24 hours a day. To this date, more than 6000 visits (hits), throughout the world have visited the site. More than 300 have left their electronic coordinates (E-mail) so as to enable us communicate with them, GRATUITOUSLY. Our site was erected, thanks to the cooperation of at least 50 persons, the names of whose are kept preciously and whose ages vary between 6 and 84 years! Translation, transcription, scanning, editing, graphism, etc.. A real network of friendship and prayer. The first phase of our site includes the Messages and the Events, PLUS:
- Photos of stigmata / ecstasy / miraculous icon
- Books : "Remember God" and "The apparitions of Damascus", as well as their English translation.
- The book of Dr. Adel Khoury in German "A sign from Heaven".
- All the collective letters (from 1986 to date) of Father Elias Zahlaoui
- Electronic petition for Unity.
- Bibliography / references : articles, books, videos, audios, regarding Soufanieh.
The site is fully multi-lingual : French, English, Arabic (for New Year 1998), PLUS, and partially translated into: Armenian, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, German, Dutch, Vietnamese and Rumanian.
2. The second part has just been finished. It will soon take its place, to complete the Soufanieh site. This time, it includes documents (especially medical ones) and testimonies.
3. This work enabled Gabriel Berberian and myself to discover, in detail, astonishing archives of Soufanieh which Father Joseph Malouli had sorted out and filed throughout the years. Yes indeed, Father Malouli is still able to surprise us. It is the type of work which required unequivocal patience, honesty and accuracy.
4. Gabriel Berberian was able to film, photograph or photocopy everything, with an explanatory word in Arabic.
5. All these archives are, for the moment, in my possession. It is worth knowing it and making it known, for all intents and purposes.
6. Pray with me so that Jesus and Mary keep in good health and for as long as possible "our guardian angel" namely, Father Joseph Malouli.
7. I include with this circular a card showing the Internet address of Soufanieh. Please distribute it among your friends.
G. The Oasis of Hope
Nicolas, Myrna's husband, carries on his work there, improving it on three fronts:
- The professional sector, providing intensive courses as well as work in tailoring, embroidery, hairdressing and electronics.
- The health sector in which 13 doctors from various specialties provide medical assistance, free of charge.
- The spiritual sector providing a religious education to a group of children, thanks to catechist volunteers.
III- THE CELEBRATION OF THE 15th ANNIVERSARY
Soufanieh does not cease to kindle even to light the fire of prayer and Unity in the hearts, as well as in homes and churches.
One must mention three manifestations during those celebrations:
1. Prayers started at 5:00 p.m. and carried on until 11:00 p.m., interrupted by a small recess. His Excellency, Msgr. Khalil Abi-Nader, former maronite bishop of Beirut, was presiding over this prayer. He was soon to be accompanied by His Excellency, Msgr. Georges Riachi, Greek-Catholic bishop of Tripoli, in Lebanon. Numerous Syrian, Lebanese, French priests were with us, including a Belgian one. Please forgive me if I only mention Fathers Joseph Besnier and Charles Clavier as well as Father René Laurentin. Many friends from the Arab world, as well as from France, Belgium, Slovakia, Canada and the United States were also attending.
Throughout this long period of prayer, all the hymns were sung by the Beirut based Choir of "Our Lady of Unity". This long prayer ceremony ended without exudation of oil.
2. The mass was celebrated at 11:00 p.m., by Msgr. Georges Riachi. Were present : Msgr. Isidore Battikha, Msgr. Khalil Abi-Nader and the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency, Msgr. Pier Giacomo de Nicolo. Add to these, a dozen of Arab and non-Arab priests out of which, Fathers Rizkallah Semaan, René Laurentin, Joseph Besnier, Charles Clavier and myself, who were concelebrating at the altar. At the end of the mass, the Apostolic Nuncio intoned, in Arabic, a hymn to Our Lady - yes, in Arabic ... whereupon oil covered the face and hands of Myrna ... Intense emotion ..."Happy birthday to Mary ...." followed in Arabic, French and English. Then, one proceeded with cutting the cake. Spontaneously around the fountain located in the middle of the patio, people held hands together to dance and sing hymns of praise to Mary.
The second one : At the Maronite Cathedral in Damascus on November 28: the two maronite bishops, Msgr. Hamid Mourani from Damascus and Msgr. Khalil Abi-Nader from Beirut, concelebrated the Holy Mass. Were present: Msgr. Boulos Assouki, Vicar of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, Msgr. Georges Riachi, Msgr. Isidore Battikha and Father François Abou Arrage, vicar of the Greek-Catholic bishop of Homs (Syria). There were many priests attending, both Arabs and non-Arabs. Let me just mention Fathers René Laurentin, Joseph Besnier and Charles Clavier. Numerous nuns were also present. I shall only mention the Syrian-Orthodox nuns of St-Ephrem. The maronite choir was in charge. However Choeur-Joie assisted them at times.
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 up.
At noon, a family lunch at the "House of the Virgin" gathered all the bishops, priests and pilgrims who had come from France, Belgium, Slovakia, Egypt, etc... This luncheon was offered by Mr. Yazagi, a local neighbour who has always done the same at each anniversary.
The third one: Triduum organized in Aleppo, for Father René Laurentin, by the Greek-Catholic bishop, Msgr. Jean Jeanbart. There were three meetings :
. At the Catholic Circle, with French speaking intellectuals.
. At St-Georges' Greek Catholic church, in presence of the worshippers, with simultaneous translation.
. At the Catholic Circle, with the clergy and nuns of Aleppo.
The theme was "The Miracles in Today's Church". Father Laurentin will not be offended, I hope, if I take this opportunity to praise his sense of responsibility, his simplicity, his clarity as well as the powerful way with which he expresses himself. I am sure that the Carmelite sisters in Aleppo will not forget very soon the visit of Father Laurentin to them, at their special request.
Here are some excerpts:
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".
My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,
In a few days, we shall celebrate Christmas, the birth of the Word of God on earth, in Palestine. While conveying to you with Myrna, Nicolas and all the Soufanieh community, our best wishes, so that the Lord produces in you and in all of us ... -, every day, a renewed birth in Faith and Love, especially throughout this new year of 1998, I beg you to continue praying for Peace, in the world, for the Unity of the Church and for fraternity among people.