Galleries 2-5 can be views as a slide-show.
|MYRNA'S PEACE & UNITY TOUR LEAFLET (ARABIC-ENGLISH) IN AUSTRALIA - AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 1993|
|FATHER BOULOS FADEL'S DETAILED REPORT IN ARABIC|
|APPARITIONS OF THE OIL
Oil has appeared on Myrna's hand thirty-seven times ; once on her face (at the Syrian Orthodox church in presence of several bishops on 26/8/93) and twice on a piece of cotton wool. On Thursday 19/8/93 we left Damascus at noon heading south towards the village of Kaa Arrime (Zahlé, Lebanon), accompanied by Msgr George Riachi, Greek Catholic bishop for Australia and New Zealand. He had come to accompany us to Lebanon so as to spend the day with us as the first stage of our long trip to Australia. That day, we celebrated the Paraklisis at 6 p.m. in the church of Our Lady in presence of the bishop, the parish priest, father Antoun Hannouche as well as fathers Hani Saliba and Boulos Fadel. Towards the end of the prayer, Msgr Riachi asked Myrna to talk to the people about the Phenomenon. Myrna gave a brief resumé centred on her relationship with the Virgin Mary at Soufanieh, insisting on the desire of Christ and His Mother to witness the unity of the Church starting from the unification of the Easter feast. After prayer, we headed towards the house of Mr. Nadra Riachi, the bishop's brother, where relatives of the bishop had gathered, to wish him a good trip and welcome Myrna. As expected, the people present asked many questions on Soufanieh. Among those questions: how did the phenomenon start? ... Myrna spoke to them about the first exudation of oil on her hands at her sister-in-law Leila. While she was speaking, I sensed her embarrassment, then she kept quiet ... The bishop asked her why she was feeling that way. She answered him by opening her hands: oil was covering both palms. The people hastened to be blessed. The news spread quickly in the building and neighbours started pouring in to see the oil and be blessed with it. Praise and thanks to the Lord followed this grace of His. The oil appeared at 10:54 p.m.
On Friday 20/8/93, at 8:30 a.m., the bishop celebrated a farewell mass. Father Boulos Fadel concelebrated in presence of about six hundred people. After communion, oil exuded from the hands of Myrna to such an extent that drops fell on the floor. At the end of the mass, all the people came forward to be blessed with the oil, while singing marian hymns. It was 9:35 a.m. when the oil appeared.
After the mass, we had breakfast and then headed towards the airport from where the plane took off at 3:30 p.m. local time for a long trip. We reached Sydney on Saturday at 8 p.m. A great number of faithful welcomed us. After an official reception given by the bishop, we headed to the bishopric in order to get some rest. Myrna and miss Therese Harb dwelled in a residence belonging to the bishopric while father Boulos was the guest of Mr. Salim Maccaron before he moved into the bishopric two days later.
|Sunday 22/8/93||At 10:30 a.m, a mass was held at the Greek-Catholic St. Michael's Cathedral. Before the mass, Msgr George Riachi explained in English the essentials of the Phenomenon and its finality, insisting on the fact that it is a grace and celestial blessing as well as an opportunity for conversion through prayer, penance and charity. He described Myrna as an ordinary person who has been able to welcome that grace in her life and who tries to live it in complete faithfulness and submission to the will of the Lord. He did not omit to mention that the house of Soufanieh lives in an absolute gratuitousness from the first moment of the phenomenon until today. Msgr Riachi celebrated mass with the assistance of archmandrite Aftimos Haddad and with fathers Jean Ghabi and Boulos Fadel. After the gospel, the bishop said a few words in Arabic relating to the visit of Myrna to Australia and to the message she was bringing.
After communion, oil exuded from the hands of Myrna. The news spread quickly in all the church, which was crammed with the faithful. It was not easy to control the feelings of those people who had heard so much about the Phenomenon of Soufanieh and who had wished to see if only a few drops of oil. Their wish was granted. It is difficult to describe the feelings of people which express themselves sometimes through tears and sometimes through wishes and prayer. The common denominator of them all was their strong urge to be blessed with this oil which remained on Myrna's hands until the last faithful. It was 11:55 a.m. when the oil appeared. About eight hundred people were attending. I heard many declare "We cannot believe that Myrna is among us ... Thank you to the Virgin Mary for that oil ... " We also heard other statements expressing their joy, their astonishment as well as their faith revival. After lunch, we visited some sick people in various hospitals, such as the young man Saad Aziz and the child Anne-Marie Dagher. Then, Msgr Riachi made a visit to Afram Aboody, bishop of the Syrian-Orthodox in Australia, in the company of father Boulos Nazha and Myrna. The latter went back very satisfied from that meeting. Bishop Aboody is known for his broadmindedness as well as his ecumenism.
|Monday 23/8/93||At 10:30 a.m., a mass was held at the bishopric. At noon an interview with Myrna was organised by "The Catholic Weekly" paper which relates news concerning the Church in Australia and the world. At 6 p.m. a mass was held at the Maronite church St. Maron. The mass was concelebrated by father Bechara Marie, assisted by fathers Elias Ayoub and Boulos Nazha in the presence of Msgr George Riachi as well as fathers Antoine Saadé, Jean Ghabi and Boulos Fadel. The ceremony started with the hymn "O Mother of God" followed by the blessing of the picture of Our Lady of Soufanieh and ending with the mass. Msgr Georges Riachi read the Gospel in Arabic and father Bechara read it in English. After communion, the bishop delivered a sermon to explain the Phenomenon. Oil flowed abundantly on Myrna's hands. Few drops even fell on the floor. It was 6:44 p.m. People ran up from everywhere, so much were they longing to be blessed with the oil. There were around 1000 attendees. Myrna ended the prayer with the song "The stones of the house have rejoiced".|
|Tuesday 24/8/93||At noon, there was a visit of sick people in several hospitals. At 7:30 p.m. a mass at the Latin church of Saint Ann was celebrated by father Antoine Saadé (the parish priest of Lebanese origin), in the presence of Msgr George Riachi and father Boulos Fadel. The mass started with Myrna singing "Come to Mary". After the reading of the Gospel, the bishop explained the phenomenon and the gratuitousness which accompanies it, putting the emphasis on the meaning of the oil and insisting on praying for the unity of all Christians. At 8:25 p.m., before the end of the mass, oil appeared on the hands of Myrna. Everyone ran up to be blessed with this oil, the majority of attendees were Australian. The prayer ended with Myrna singing "Every time the icon's cupola fills up with oil". On that same day, I learnt that Channel TV-7 SBS had given an outline of the Phenomenon as well as of the mass celebrated in Saint Maron church the day before.
|Wednesday 25/8/93||At 11:15 a.m. there was an interview with TV channel 7. The interview took place in Myrna's residence. Msgr George Riachi acted as a translator. Another interview took place at 1:15 p.m. with the TV channel. There also Msgr George Riachi helped as a translator. Oil exsuded from the hands of Myrna during that interview in the presence of the interviewer, the cameramen, the bishop, father Boulos, miss Therese Harb, mr. George Mitri and his spouse as well as in the presence of mrs. Loddy Nakhl. Here are the details: at the end of the interview, the speaker said "Thank you". At that very moment, the oil appeared and all present saw it, especially the interviewer who touched it, smelt it and asked to film once more, after the cameraman had dismantled all of his equipment. He asked "Can we continue the interview?. Myrna answered "I am the one who wants to interview you". The interviewer smiled: "What is your impression?" she asked. He answered "Throughout all the interviews I have organised in my life, I never came across such an event". He asked Myrna "Have you requested the apparition of oil from the Virgin Mary?". Myrna answered "I asked for it during my previous interview with channel 7, but not now". The interviewer kept on repeating "It is oil, it is oil, it is a miracle!. A few minutes ago, I was concluding my interview by saying "Thank you, we have finished". In reality, we have not finished because someone has prepared for us a new program. It is starting now". In the evening, a mass was held at the Latin church of St. Thomas. A group of Chinese from Sydney had organised a prayer meeting with Myrna, including the prayer of the rosary followed by mass. We arrived at the church at 6:20 p.m. Prayer started immediately. Most attendees were Chinese. The remainder belonged to various ethnic groups. The person in charge of the meeting welcomed the bishop and Myrna. The bishop was asked to give an outlook on the phenomenon of Soufanieh and towards the end of his speech, people applauded. At 6:40 p.m. the rosary was prayed for the intention of peace and the unity of the Church. Myrna was requested to pray the first ten beads. At 7:10 p.m., mass was celebrated by father Paul Jennings and Paschal Chang. The gospel of John 17: 20-26 was read. At the time of the collect, the person in charge announced to the people that the proceeds of the collection will go towards paying Myrna's needs for her mission in Australia. At that moment, mr. Nilos Simaan came up and requested to amend what had just been said because the Phenomenon is gratuitous. The person in charge apologised in front of all present and assured them that the money will go towards the church's needs.
At the end of the mass, Myrna was asked to relate her experience of the phenomenon. Msgr Riachi translated. This is briefly what she said: "If you have come to see a miracle, this miracle has already occurred when the priest has converted the bread and wine into the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus. If you came to seek God, I tell you that he is within each of you. If you come to learn how to love God, I would tell you "Love one another". Your being together is the miracle. Myrna is an ordinary person. She is even inferior to you. I do not know why God has chosen me. What I am doing is what the Virgin Mary did when she said "I am the servant of the Lord", so I pave the way to let God operate in me". She then gave a rapid outlook on her experience related to the Soufanieh phenomenon. She said among other things "The Virgin Mary does not belong to Myrna alone, but She belongs to each of us, which means that each of us is endowed with a mission. Pray for unity and peace. Pray for me so that I fulfil my mission as per God's will. My love for my mission has made me leave my husband and my children... God does not need any media to confirm what He wants ... God needs us. Pray for the divided families because the family is a small church". The people applauded at the end and then came up to be blessed with oil from Soufanieh. After the mass, we were invited for a cup of tea in the church hall. The invitation was extended to all. A great number of people were there. TV channel 9 was awaiting Myrna in the hall for a quick interview. As Myrna was talking with the TV interviewer, an American woman came up, holding her young daughter impaired with an incurable heart disease. She was crying and insisting to have some oil for her daughter. Somewhat moved, Myrna answered "There is no oil". The woman told her "Let me touch your hand". She hurried to squeeze her hand and suddenly the oil covered Myrna's both hands. Many cried at the sight of that event, among them the TV interviewer. The camera duly recorded the scene. It was 8:10 p.m.
|Thursday 26/8/93||The morning was devoted to visiting the sick. At eleven, we joined a marial group in praying the rosary in a house. At 7 p.m., we went to the Syrian-Orthodox church of Saint Ephrem. There, His Excellency Afram Aboody welcomed us wholeheartedly. It was not easy to penetrate the church, which was small, because of the many people. A big tent was erected outside and people were everywhere even in the street. Father Ziki Zeitoun opened the ceremony with a word of welcome in the presence of bishops Afram Aboody and Georges Riachi as well as fathers Abdallah Ackouri, Milki Matta, Abdel Ahad Zeitoun, Jean Ghabi and Boulos Fadel. Two excerpts from the Epistles of Saint Jack and Saint Paul were read. Mgr. Abboudy read the Gospel in English and Mgr. George Riachi in Arabic; in the meantime, Myrna felt that oil was covering her face. She sat down to avoid people looking at her, then oil appeared on her hands. Msgr George Riachi was informed of the event. He in turn alerted Msgr Afram Aboody. The latter requested Myrna to come to the altar in order to avoid any jostling. Msgr Afram Aboody delivered a very eloquent sermon, inspired with a great love for unity emanating from a generous and righteous heart. The emotion created by his words was so strong that warm applause accompanied each sentence. The emotion of the two bishops showed through the tears of joy which fell on their face. Then, Msgr Riachi addressed a word of thanks to Msgr Afram Aboody for his love and his open-heartedness. He requested Myrna to address a word to the crowd. She said among other things "The beauty of the Virgin does not exceed yours when you are under one same roof and her beauty will increase when we are all united. The oil has appeared on my face and my hands only because a Catholic bishop shared the prayer with an Orthodox bishop under one same church roof". Myrna came out with the bishops onto the outside courtyard so as to allow everyone to be blessed with the oil. About 2000 people were present. It was 8:35 p.m., when the oil appeared.|
|Friday 27/8/93||In the morning, we visited a kindergarten as well as some sick people. In the afternoon, a mass was held in the Maronite church of St. Charbel. We were surprised to see that the faithful had filled even the alleys of the church as well as the space outside. We encountered some difficulty in entering the church. At 6 p.m., father Antoine Meréeb, superior of the convent of Saint Charbel, started the celebration of the mass. He was assisted by two priests, in the presence of Msgr George Riachi and fathers Aziz Kazzi, Charbel Kazzi, Joseph Salman, Jean Ghabi and Boulos Fadel. People were everywhere. Six priests were distributing communion but unfortunately many people could not take Holy Communion because the priests could not reach them. At the end of the mass, oil exuded from the hands of Myrna. There was such a mad outpour of people that Myrna and her entourage were nearly suffocated. It is with great pain that we were able to take her away to the sacristy. We tried in vain to exit from there. The people were surrounding the church and all of its exits . All our endeavours to restore order so as to enable people to be blessed with the oil proved to no avail.|
|From 28/8/93 till end of the Tour||
TRANSLATION REQUIRED FROM THE ORIGINAL ARABIC TEXT.
|PERSONAL IMPRESSIONS ON MYRNA'S TRIP TO AUSTRALIA FROM 20.8.93 to 21.9.93
Australia is one of the largest countries in the world. A continent in itself, situated in the far eastern part of the world. Its population is a mosaic of civilisations, such as Asiatics, Europeans and Americans. This is why, this continent can be considered as a microcosm of the world population. The trip or rather the mission of Myrna in Australia is one of the many visits that the Lord has planned for her. It is He who told Myrna "Do not choose your path because I have laid it out before you". No surprise therefore that her mission is such as "Go into the world and tell my children to work for unity".
A laity committee was formed presided by His Excellency, Mgr. George Riachi. It was composed of Nelson Simâan, Souheil Mark Eid, Thérèse Harb. Its task was to organise the invitation to Australia. They reviewed the program and established contacts with the various churches. The committee tried to take maximum advantage of the presence of Myrna. This is why they set up a very heavy schedule covering the major cities as well as some minor towns from four states out of six. Consequently, Myrna's mission was hectic. It started right from the first day and went on until the last day. We arrived on Saturday at 8 p.m. The program started on Sunday and went on until the last day of our sojourn. All those who knew the nature of her mission and its requisites, whether it be the exudation of oil or the standing up position for hours to bless the people, confessed that the whole mission was beyond human possibilities. Even the committee was surprised about the program it had set up. They admitted "we had no idea of what would happen". This same committee printed at its own expense 75000 pictures of Our Lady of Soufanieh and had them distributed freely in the churches. Despite the severity of the program, Myrna remained the most outstanding personality throughout those events, because of her simplicity and the acceptance of everything which related to her mission despite the difficulties and at the expense of her health. She had flu, her temperature rose. She was exhausted because of the jet lag and the standing up position for so long. No one ever heard her utter any complaint. On the opposite, she insisted on the strict implementation of the program because the committee had already planned it with the various churches and everything had been scheduled in advance. In fact, all the various visits had been published several times in the various papers and magazines long before Myrna's arrival. As far as I was concerned, I was unable to accept easily this invitation in the beginning. I hesitated a long time before accepting for the simple reason that I could not see what role I would be playing during this trip. Australia is an English speaking country and I, myself, do not speak the language. After various consultations, mainly with my superior and father Joseph Malouli, I agreed to travel.
Today I understand that the will of God was for me to travel with and accompany Myrna, in view of the events that took place and in which I was to play, if only a modest role. I learnt the lesson that the will of God is not always obvious but that one discovers it as soon as he submits to it.
Msgr. George Riachi played an important role throughout the trip of Myrna. He accompanied us in most towns and villages where we went. He left us very seldom and only then because of his commitments in Sydney. Everywhere, His Excellency held the phenomenon in very high esteem. He was the great missionary not only inside the churches but even throughout evening meetings, during casual encounters and various trips. It was not easy for him to dare invite Myrna. He long hesitated and consulted with many competent religious officials. Besides, he had gathered enough evidence regarding the credibility of the phenomenon. This is why, it is with courage that he extended the invitation in the name of the committee. I asked him what was his position after having witnessed the various events in Australia; he answered with assurance and a smile "Myrna is a grace which has flooded Australia".
I wish that the invitation could have been extended for two months instead of one, because Australia has an urgent need for a conversion similar to the one it is living today.
The most moving aspect of Myrna's mission consisted in the great number of people flocking into churches. She brought about and experimented a popular and religious revolution through which Australia never went before. Peaceful revolution aiming toward prayer and the unity of the Church. In each church, she was able to bring together faithful from various rites, believing in unity. Even Moslems were present. I shall not forget the tears of men, women and youth alike when Myrna was preaching or when the oil was exuding. I shall not forget what the crowd was singing at the church of Saint Charbel, during Myrna's last encounter before her return to Syria.
When they sang "The stones of the house have rejoiced", instead of keeping on singing "Why couldn't you stay with us, ô Virgin", they spontaneously substituted the last words by singing "why couldn't you stay with us, oh Myrna !".
More than 150 people were bidding her farewell at the airport. "What have you done with us" said they with emotion. The tears coming out of silent people were even more eloquent. So were the remarks gathered and repeated here and there. "We have never sensed the importance of unity the way we experiment it now, thanks to Myrna. We used to dream of going to Soufanieh and Soufanieh has now come to us instead. We cannot believe that Myrna is among us. Thank you for your coming".
The core of the trip
All the meetings of Myrna with the people were held for the sake of praying for unity. For a whole month, our sole activity consisted in praying either in churches or with the sick. No touristical activity took place at any time, except along the roads leading to churches or hospitals. As has been the case all over the world, we wanted to keep the gratuitousness aspect of the phenomenon. We therefore rejected any offering regardless of its importance. Myrna accepted only a few small gifts for her children, after a lot of insistence from the people concerned.
Attitudes of the officials
In all the churches we visited, the clergy and bishops welcomed us with great respect, specially after becoming acquainted with the structure of the phenomenon, whether they saw the oil or because they were moved by Myrna and her simplicity. The following question remains: Why all that? Why support all these hardships if the mission was to be devoid of any purpose? Why has Myrna left her husband and her two small children for a whole month, had her love for her mission not been bigger and stronger ...?
When the Lord says "a good tree bears good fruits", this applies to Soufanieh, in general and to her mission to Australia in particular. Its fruits are prayer, conversion, penance, faith revival, increase of charity, a more acute awareness that the unity of the Church is the responsibility of each of its members and that this unity must first pass through unity of hearts and love.
In summary, the mission of Myrna has had its impact on tens of thousands of faithful. What the Lord has started in a modest house of Damascus, will one day, spread to the whole world. The impact that Soufanieh leaves everywhere in the world is nothing but a sign that it is not a human work, regardless of how much people strive to make it a success.
Father Boulos Fadel