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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egypt: Haven for the Holy Family


Egypt is in the new these days.  Lost of unrest, uncertainty, violence, and fear.

Did you know that a little over a year ago there were reports of the Virgin Mary appearing above the dome of a Coptic Christian church near Cairo?  I don't remember hearing anything about it, but it only took a little digging to find this post by Rod Dreher at Beliefnet and this post at the LA Times Middle East blog.  The LA Times piece includes the following:
Hundreds, if not thousands, have been lining up for hours every night at the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church in a Cairo neighborhood just off the Nile. Many of them claim that a mysterious light hovering above the church's domes is an apparition of the Virgin Mary who will bring Christian Copts prosperity and relief in a time of national and religious struggle.
The crowds began appearing Thursday evening when a number of residents spotted a flickering light. No one was sure where the illumination was coming from, and word quickly spread that the light took the shape of the Virgin Mary wearing a blue gown and standing in the sky between the church's two high crosses.
Copts form 10% of Egypt's population of 80 million, and many firmly believe that this is the fourth time an apparition of Virgin Mary has taken place. The most famous incident was claimed to have happened in 1968, a few months after the country's military defeat at the hands of Israel and the latter's occupation of the Sinai peninsula.
At the time, some people assumed that she has appeared to help Egypt -- a predominantly Muslim nation -- through a time of crisis. Some Copts believe the Virgin is again appearing at a time of turmoil. There has been no official word from the Coptic Church.
"I had a seven-hour train journey to come and see the apparition," Magdi Sam'aan, a farmer from Asyut told The Times. "Our life in upper Egypt is very rough because of my limited income, but I believe the Virgin Mary has come at this specific moment to lend me and the whole country a hand."
I had heard of the appearance of Mary in the little town of Zeitoun, Egypt during the years 1968 to 1970.  Many people reported seeing her there, Muslim and Christian alike.  Those apparitions were approved by the Coptic hierarchy, and reportedly also by the local Catholic bishop (see this article).

There were also reports of an apparition in September 2000 in a town 300 miles south of Cairo.  The local priest said the sightings were a blessing (BBC article) and thousands came to the town, again both Muslim and Christian.  Bishop Mark Hanna, said the Virgin Mary came to the town of Assuit because that was were the Holy Family stayed during their flight into Egypt (ABC news report).

I often forget the connection between Egypt and the Holy Family and how that country  provided them with safe haven as they fled from the murderous regime of Herod.  I would imagine that the Blessed Mother would have a special place in her heart for those people who sheltered her and her beloved husband and divine son.  It's a place where they found peace.  Interestingly, all of the reported apparitions in Egypt include the appearance of luminescent white birds, the doves of peace.

Here is a video of the most recent alleged apparitions.  See what you think:

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