Farouk Mohammed Atwa heard people shouting in the streets. “I ran to them. I saw a lady dressed in white on the church dome at the north. I shouted to her, “Be careful! Take care! Wait!”
Atwa and his colleagues thought the woman, who was kneeling at the cross on top of the dome, was ready to commit suicide. “Lady, don’t jump!” A rescue team was summoned but as the pedestrians watched they realized something very extraordinary about the woman.
Despite the smooth, sloping dome, she was able to perfectly maintain her balance. When they called to her, the woman stood. As the newspaper Watani later reported, “They all saw her dressed as if in a bright gown of light in a view similar to that associated with the Virgin Mary. One of the women gave out a very long ‘Za gha ruta’ (cry of joy). Involuntarily she then cried out, ‘Setena Mariam’, which means, ‘Our Lady, Mary.’ The woman began pleading for the Lady’s blessings.”
Atwa gawked at the ephemeral woman and pointed toward her with his finger, bandaged because of gangrene and scheduled to be amputated the next day. The woman, he thought to himself, resembled a nun. Suddenly a small flock of doves — or at least lights that looked like doves — materialized out of thin air and hovered around Mary’s head. They weren’t really birds. They flitted instead of flying. And their wings didn’t move.
The apparition faded after a few moments, leaving Atwa and the others speechless.
Who was it on the roof?
The next morning, when Atwa went to have his operation, the doctor was astonished to see that Atwa’s finger was completely healed.
This information comes from a 1992 book, “The Final Hour” by Michael H. Brown. The apparition occurred not in Rome but Egypt.
The apparition returned a week later and soon was seen up to three times a week, generally at night, on occasion, visible for hours. Huge crowds formed around the church, growing larger with each subsequent evening as word spread and as Mary continued to appear to the throngs. Authorities searched a 15-mile radius for any electrical devices that might be used to project the image but soon they too were convinced that a transcendental event was occurring. Even former Egyptian President Abdul Nasser found himself among the witnesses. This was an exceedingly important apparition, witnessed by at least a million Egyptians, more people than any known supernatural event in history.
A previous column mentioned the December 2015 issue of National Geographic. Their cover story, “Mary, The Most Powerful Woman in the World,” cited 2,000 sightings of Mary claimed since A.D. 40.
Sometimes witnesses saw Mary emerge from a blinding globe of light. There were times she looked like a real-life human who just happened to be able to stroll atop the domes without the slightest loss of balance. Looking to the crowds, she would wave with an olive branch and bow to them. Often she struck the pose of the Miraculous Medal, light streaming from her hands.
Especially unique to the Zeitun apparition was the incense. Huge billows of purplish-red smoke with a fragrant odor would rise from the church, as if from a million censers. Sometimes Mary’s likeness formed in the smoke.
Brown’s book explains, “This was the apparition predicted in Lithuania. It had also been foreseen back in 1918, when Mary appeared in a dream to a devout Egyptian named Khalil and told him to build a church on his land. If he did, she said, she’d return in fifty years to bless it.
Mary appeared to a million people on the dome of a church called Saint Mary’s in the Middle East, far from a Catholic setting. The church belonged to the Orthodox-the Coptic Orthodox- and was situated, of all places, in Zeitun, Egypt, a suburb of Cairo, built by a man named Khalil.
Mary, in the land of the pyramids, Mary in the center of Islam. Mary above a church that was located near the historic and holy area known as the Mataria, where she, Joseph and the Christ Child had come to rest after fleeing into Egypt to escape the despot, Herod.
Millions saw her in Egypt. Bishops saw her. Scholars and government leaders saw her.
But in America, there were a few blurbs in a newspaper or two, they were too busy writing about hot pants, the Chicago Seven and a bungled political burglary.
Mary first danced on the dome of an Egyptian church about 8:30 p.m. April 2, 1968, fifty years after she asked a man in his dream to build a church on ground with which she was familiar. For the first time in Egyptian history, Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims prayed together in public.
Muslims chanted from the Koran (which includes chapters on both Mary and Jesus), “Mary, God has chosen thee. And purified thee, He has chosen thee. Above all women.”
The “Most Powerful Woman in the World,” indeed.