My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;
Already more than one year that you are without news of Soufanieh. This circular will tell you a little of what we lived at the time of the 13th anniversary, and the highlights of this year. I hope that it will tighten this network of friendship and prayer that Jesus and Mary created since 1982: beginning of the Phenomenon. Is this not a preparation of what They are asking from us at Soufanieh: the Unity of Hearts and the Unity of the Church?
CELEBRATION OF THE 13th ANNIVERSARY
Many friends, Arabs and non-Arabs were with us as of November 22nd. Lebanese, Jordanian, Egyptian, Iraqi, French, American, Canadian. A large Dutch group was present with Father Johannès Touw. His Holiness, the Antiochian Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Zakka Iwas 1st, received most of them for about an hour, on Friday November 24th. Of course the dialogue centred around the unity of the Church and the impact of Soufanieh at this level.
A large painting from the Friends of Soufanieh in Australia arrived in Damascus, (measuring 6x5 metres / yards) presided the main entrance of the church (Our Lady of Damascus), where the anniversary Mass took place, then transferred on the facade of the 'House of the Virgin', a few days later.
On Saturday 25th, at 17:00, His Excellency, Mgr Isidore Battikha, Greek Catholic patriarchal vicar in Damascus, celebrated the Anniversary Mass at the church of Our Lady of Damascus. A large crowd was present as well as Mgr Ibrahim Nehmé, Catholic Greek bishop of Homs (Syria), Mgr Boulos Souki, priest from the Syrian Orthodox community in Damascus and Mgr Eugenio Reyes, secretary of the Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, the latter, away in Rome. Many local priests and ten foreign ones, concelebrated with Mgr Battikha. The bishop's homily centred around the Unity of the Church, on the basis of the messages of Soufanieh. It was a very touching homily and a lot of people were very moved by it, while others could not contain their tears, including the bishop himself. During Holy Communion, oil exuded from Myrna's hands abundantly. She anointed during 45 minutes all the faithful present. Of course, everything was photographed and shot on video and for the television network.
Throughout the evening, prayers continued at the House of the Virgin until two o'clock in the morning.
On Sunday 26th, the prayer in "the House of the Virgin" began at 16:45. Faithful, friends and supporters overflowed into the street. Three choirs animated with their singing, the various hymns and prayers: the Choir of Our Lady of Unity (Lebanese Choir founded and animated by the deacon Georges Battikha); the Choir of Our Lady of Hope, of the "Douéla" suburb south of Damascus, and Choeur-Joie that most of you know by now. At 19:45, just as the first prayer program was concluding, oil suddenly and abundantly covered Myrna's face, eyes and hands. She remained several minutes absent from the exterior world, helped by Father Johannès Touw and two young people. When she finally recovered, she happily anointed with the oil the people present, on their forehead.
At 23:00, I celebrated the Holy Mass with Father Paul Fadel. Mgr Isidore Battikha arrived at the end of this Mass, and said a few words to the people present. Then we all sang "happy birthday" to the Virgin Mary while cutting the anniversary cake. I left the House of the Virgin at 01:30 and it was still crowded with people.
On Monday 27th, at 20:00, the younger choral group of Choir-Joie offered at Our Lady of Damascus church, a recital of songs, some of which were inspired from Soufanieh and centred on the unity of hearts and the Church.
Also, on this occasion, copies of the Arabic translation of my book Souvenez-vous de Dieu- (Remember God) were also gratuitously distributed. The translation was made by my friend, Mr Adib Mousleh who also had the book printed in Lebanon at his own expense.
Furthermore, during this anniversary, a new audio cassette has been produced by Father Rizkallah Simaan and is now in circulation all over. He inspired himself extensively from the messages of Soufanieh.
A friend of Soufanieh was in charge of the printing of a book containing numerous songs, most of which are based on the Messages of Soufanieh. This book is almost finished and will be given out to friends of Soufanieh in the coming days.
Recently, the French translation of Mr Edgar Zekert's book 'Où nous mène Soufanieh - (Where is Soufanieh leading us) ?' has been printed in 1993, in Lebanon at his own expenses, and distributed free of charge.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR
Above all, the constant and on-going prayer at The House of the Virgin in the most uncompromising gratuity. We receive numerous letters and testimonials daily from everywhere. Ongoing exudation of oil from Myrna's hands and from numerous reproductions of Our Lady of Soufanieh, here or there. All this is known and permanent. Pray for us so that we do not take things for granted, since routine is capable of normalising EVERYTHING.
I want to talk to you now about Myrna's journeys: previous ones and foreseen ones, as well as about the breakthrough that Soufanieh has achieved at the international conventions level, about the impact of the television media of certain regions or countries, and about the silence of Myrna and Nicolas.
Previous journeys of Myrna: Egypt, Lebanon, United States.
EGYPT. Myrna spent about fifteen days in Egypt, during the month of January. On Wednesday 25th, she was received by His Holiness, the Copt Orthodox Pope, Shenouda III. She was accompanied by her husband Nicolas, their two children and a Coptic Catholic bishop, Mgr Youhanna Colta. The interview lasted about 45 minutes. His Holiness asked Myrna, amongst other things, to talk about the extraordinary phenomena she is experiencing to date. Myrna offered him a large reproduction of Our Lady of Soufanieh, and as she started her testimonial, suddenly her hands were covered with oil. His Holiness collected the oil in his handkerchief.
LEBANON: Myrna was invited several times in Lebanon for prayer purposes. Generally, she is asked to give her testimonial, which is given briefly and with humbleness. Inevitably until this day, oil exudes from Myrna's hands, sometimes so abundantly that drops fall on the ground.
The first time, on Sunday May 29th, His Excellency, Mgr Khalil Abi Nader, maronite bishop of Beirut, celebrated the Mass at the church of Saint Theresa in Mansourieh. If you could have seen the bishop's reaction when the oil covered Myrna's hands and hear what he told me afterwards. At the end of this section, I will replicate a literal translation of his written testimonial. Judge for yourselves.
The second time was on Monday May 30th, in the Greek Catholic church of the village of Mié Mié, near Sidon. Mgr Georges Cuéter celebrated the Holy Mass, then a procession moved towards the sanctuary of the Virgin Mary erected in the centre of the village where oil oozed from Myrna's hands unto the ground.
The third time was on Tuesday May 31st, at the village of Maghdouché, also near Sidon, at the feet of the immense statue of the Virgin Mary. Mgr Cuéter celebrated the Holy Mass in the presence of a very large crowd estimated at several thousands, during which he said that he had opted to ignore Soufanieh purposely for 11 years, -same testimonial given the day before at the village of Mié Mié- but he finally decided to pay attention to the phenomenon of Soufanieh for two reasons: Its permanence and its humble gratuitousness. Oil oozed abundantly and covered Myrna's hands. The crowds then rushed for the oil which forced the bishop to call onto the Lebanese soldiers to contain the crowd and resume public order.
The fourth time, it was on Sunday June 11th, at the Holy Saviour Church in Beirut. A recital of songs inspired from the gospel and messages of Soufanieh was given there, animated by the choir of Our Lady of Unity and the poet Elias Sleimane. Specially present for the occasion were Father Antoine Nasr, vicar, and the Orthodox Archimandrite, Loutfi Farah.
The fifth time was at Jbail, on Saturday June 24th. Father Michel Abi Saab, maronite vicar of St-James church invited Myrna. I hope no one will be upset if I told you that this priest broke into tears at the sight of oil oozing from Myrna's hands.
The sixth time was at the village parish of Haret Sakhr, close to Jounieh. It was Saturday, August 12th, 1995, on the invitation of the maronite vicar, Father Louis Bouéri.
Here is now the literal
translation of Mgr Khalil Abi Nader's testimonial, maronite bishop of Beirut.
This testimony is written on the letterhead of the bishopric of Beirut,
in arabic, bearing the words: protocol no 122/95. At the end of
the testimony one reads the bishop's signature accompanied with the seal
of the bishopric.
I didn't know Myrna Akhras beforehand, one would mistake her for Bernadette's cousin from Lourdes (France), given her innocence, simplicity, humility, as well as her Christian conscience and her continuous prayer. That is why the Virgin has appeared to her and entrusted her with a message.
I heard about her of late, at the church of Saint Theresa and the Infant Jesus, in Mansourieh Almatn, where I celebrated the Holy Mass, in the evening of Monday, May 29th, 1995.
I heard her speak, in a ver simple style, with faith and piety, animated with the evangelical mind of the women who surrounded Christ, the same as Martha and Mary.
The Virgin appeared to her, at times smiling, at times crying, while asking from her, and through her, more faith, prayer, humility, penance, love and perpetual joy.
I suddenly saw, with my own eyes, -since she was very close to me near the altar- oil cover her hands. It occurred only for Jesus' glorification.
I touched her hands with mine. My hands filled themselves with the sacred oil.
During one hour, the attendance faithfully and enthusiastically was anointed with the oil that was oozing from Myrna's fingers, anointing which resembled that of giving of blessings.
Beautiful sight for all to see. I followed it closely with my eyes from the altar. Theresa had promised us flowers from Heavens. The oil from Myrna's hands appeared to be flowers from Heavens.
It was a prayer for peace and Unity of the Church whose unique Pastor is Jesus.
Myrna was with us. She seemed to announce Jesus, not with speeches and sermons, but through her presence, her sober language, oil from her hands, through her prayer and Communion of the Holy Eucharist which gathers God's people. Her humble prayer telling us: The church is the Kingdom of Heavens on Earth.
Beloved Saint Theresa of the Infant Jesus, we receive from You, in your church, the blessing for this message through Myrna Akhras as your sister in faith and humility, and especially through the intercession of Our Lady of Soufanieh, our Mother the Virgin Mary, who is Love and Tenderness for Myrna, for us and for all those who believe in Her Son Jesus.
Beirut, feast of Jesus' Sacred Heart,
Friday, June 23rd, 1995
Planned journeys for Myrna
You know that Myrna receives numerous invitations, but she finally travels little. Before accepting any invitation, we pray a lot and we seek advice. If we ever discover the least risk of deviation or opposition to the purpose of Soufanieh, we politely apologise and refuse the invitation, even if it is at the last minute, as was the case in 1994 for the journey to the United States, and in 1993, to Puerto Rico.
Currently, there are numerous invitations: Poland, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, Rome and Sweden...
However two journeys are planned at the moment: France (end March 1996) and the United States, during June 1996.
Please pray for us, so that God's will be achieved during these journeys, if they take place.
In the scientific surroundings
You know the scientific milieu is very allergic to phenomena like Soufanieh.
You also know that some people hide themselves behind science, attempting to silence such phenomena, or to await an explanation from science one day.
However, Soufanieh was the object of numerous researches led by scientists, some of which came with a critical prejudice, and then found themselves kneeling at the foot of the Icon, weeping.
Some scientists have been conquered by Soufanieh, to the extent of presenting Soufanieh in their scientific circles. One among them, psychoanalyst André Pastalidès, has presented the phenomena at an international congress held in Santa Rosa, in California (USA), in October 1988. That was also the case with Dr Johannès Touw, a Dutch Benedictine monk, who presented the Phenomenon during two hours at a convention of psychology, held from July 12th to July 16th, 1995 at Innsbruck, Austria.
At the media (television) level
Soufanieh has already been the object of several televised programs in Europe, Canada and the United States.
This year, Soufanieh was welcomed at the Syrian television, for a one-hour documentary to which I was invited on Saturday, August 26th, 1995. Several topics were discussed, twice on Soufanieh.
On the other hand, we expect a program to be televised in France on Soufanieh during Easter 1996. Here is why: In the October 29th - 30th time frame, Mr Jean-Pierre Enkiri, cameraman to France 2, came to Damascus. He produced a documentary on Soufanieh. I was happy to help and accompany him. He concluded his work by asking Myrna to pray before the Miraculous Icon. A large group was also present to pray with Myrna. Before the prayer, I took out a picture of Our Lady of Soufanieh from a bag full of plastic pictures, and gave it to Myrna, to hold it in her left hand close to her chest. At the end of the prayer, without turning around, Myrna showed me the picture: two bubbles of oil were there... a large one covered the chest of the Virgin and Jesus, while the smaller one was over the head of the Virgin. You can imagine the astonishment and joy of Mr. Enkiri, who hurriedly aimed his camera on the picture exuding oil. Then he turned around and told me: 'Father, I hope to project this documentary during Easter 1996.'
At the spiritual and social service level
In a previous bulletin, I spoke to you about a community centre in the village 'AL KRAYA', 130 km (90 miles) south of Damascus. This Centre was created by a Salesian Nun on the advice of and with Myrna's support. Myrna spent one day per week there. This centre now occupies three Salesian Nuns so much its social and spiritual radiance is vast. But Myrna, due to her exhausting and demanding schedule is barely able to visit it.
However in Douéla, the southern suburb of Damascus, a deprived and overcrowded district, a Soufanieh faithful bought and restored a large house, and at its completion it resembled an architectural oasis. Confided to the Little Sisters of Foucauld, this house became an astonishing centre of spiritual and social service, whose direction has been assigned -since several months- to Nicolas, Myrna's husband. Both are very happy about it. This centre is called "Oasis of Hope".
New breakthrough in Europe
This title must astonish you. In fact, it is about the tour that has just been concluded in France, in Holland, and Germany, by the choir of the church Our Lady of Damascus, Chœur-Joie, (105 singers) from August 21st till September 12th, 1995. Ant this choir is made up of 105 singers.
Such a tour was impossible without Soufanieh. Because all those who welcomed it knew us through Soufanieh. Besides, our audience was from the faithful of Soufanieh which now constitutes an extraordinary network of friendship and prayer throughout the world. Imagine that we sent to friends of Soufanieh in Europe more than 800 letters. And that is why a vast public welcomed us everywhere, some of which in their own homes. For the Arabs of Syria, it is a miracle. What a beautiful bridge of friendship and faith Our Lady has created ! And with Her, we hope to strengthen these bridges and to multiply them. As it stands now, it seems to me to be more than a necessity, especially between the Arab world and the West, a beautiful bridge linking two cultures.
Is this not better than the damned curse of ignorance and reciprocal hostility that established itself between the Arab world and the West? By doing so, isn't Choeur-Joie on the way of the Unity of Hearts which Mary and Jesus ask from us through Soufanieh?
On Myrna's and especially Nicolas' discrete silence
The title of this paragraph must appear enigmatic to you.
If you allow me, the fact that Myrna occupies the first rank in Soufanieh, is not her fault, given that she did nothing to deserve it and that she never wanted it to be so.
Anyone knowing Soufanieh, would also know that Nicolas is an essential element of Soufanieh, although in the background. He is not offended of it at all, as a matter of fact he is very happy about it, and considers himself "out of the picture" sincerely.
But it was necessary that he realises one day that it is not so, and that he has something to say about what he has gone through, and is still experiencing in Soufanieh. He accepted therefore to write his memoirs. I was astonished about what he wrote in draft form, and trust me, it is quite enlightening. But Nicolas insists that not everything is to be known now.
We rely on your prayers so that these souvenirs or memoirs are used for good purpose in the second volume (chronicles) that I am preparing on Soufanieh.
In a short secret road, paved by the Virgin Mary
A letter from Paris, France,
solicited me for a prayer to the Virgin Mary, that would appear in a "MARIAN
PRAYERS" booklet. I had the choice between known Byzantine prayers, or
an inspired prayer from Soufanieh. I opted for the latter, even though
I felt very belittled at the splendour of the Byzantine prayers. I hope
that you will understand and excuse my option. Maybe this prayer can nourish
our Faith and direct us toward the Unity of Hearts and the Church:
Virgin Mary, Mother of God and men,
Blessed are You to have accepted for the first time in the History of Salvation, a Mission in the heart of the Arab World.
Blessed are You to have chosen Damascus as a home, to gather your children who come from the five continents, to remind them of the Gospel of your Son Jesus and to listen to Him.
Blessed is your Son Jesus to have chosen at this end of century, full of hate, violence and murder, to unveil to the whole world, as previously to St-Paul, the fascinating face of our God who is Love, Dignity and Peace.
Blessed are You to have chosen Myrna, a simple and young Arab, without much culture, to manifest Your Love that surpasses all cultures.
Blessed are you to have blessed the love of Myrna and Nicolas her husband, and their children, Myriam and Jean Emmanuel, in order to tell us again, in this end of century which is experiencing a systematic destruction of the Family and of Life, that Love is God Himself sealing the love between man and wife, and that the child is simply a Gift from Heavens.
Blessed are you to remind us in this modest district of Soufanieh in Damascus through this rosary of marvels such as exsudations of oil, apparitions, ecstasies, messages, visions, stigmata, bodily and spiritual cures, with doors open to all, through continuous prayer in humility and gratuitousness; Blessed are you for your joint Presence, so powerful yet so discreet and loving is always the same, yesterday, today and forever.
Blessed are you for your presence in the Arab world, welcoming yet so unrecognized, and where miraculously survives this little tenacious and living remnant of Your first Church.
Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and men, make us worthy to announce intelligently and courageously, Your Son's name, and to deserve the Mission that You entrusted us with.
My Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,
Excuse the length of this bulletin, but it is with joy and a heart full of graces that I wrote it it to you. I hope that you will read this letter with the same feelings.
In a few days, we will celebrate Christmas. Hoping that this Event be for all of us, everyday, a new birth. Hoping that you can live this event all year long.
In conclusion and at the dawn of Christmas, in the patio of the House of the Virgin, your brothers and sisters of Syria have gathered around the manger to make a prayer vigil. Many Moslems were among us also. About an hour and half later, I wanted to conclude the prayers with a wish, and suddenly oil oozed from Myrna's hands and dropped on the floor. Seeing the oil, one of the Moslems who were present, and who has a very sick child, confided to friends who had brought him to Soufanieh: 'when I saw the oil, I prayed for Christian Unity first, and then for my son's recovery.'
I will ask you to pray for Myrna and her family.
Is it necessary to remind all of you of the two important requests from Heavens through Soufanieh: the Unity of the Church and Peace in the world?
In constant devotion at
Jesus' and Mary's feet;
Father Elias Zahlaoui
Father ELIAS ZAHLAOUI
OUR LADY OF DAMASCUS PARISH
SYRIA - Tel: 00 963 11 445-0999 Fax (friends): 00 963 11 224-5816