This Marian apparition in Egypt was witnessed by at least 250,000 people


F50R2J/Wikipedia CC by SA 4.0 | Public Domain

The Vatican, the Coptic Church and even the government of Egypt were unified in their approval of the apparition.

On April 2, 1968, a Muslim bus mechanic saw something strange hovering over St. Mary’s Coptic Church in Zeitoun. He thought someone was going to commit suicide, but after closer examination, he saw it was a silhouette of light that resembled a woman.

The apparition attracted a large crowd, but only lasted a few minutes.

The following week it happened again, and continued 2 or 3 times a week for a total of three years, ending in 1971. Many believed the apparition was the Virgin Mary, clothed with light. The phenomenon occurred on top of a church that is traditionally held to be a location where the Holy Family stayed during their sojourn in Egypt.

The apparition was witnessed by people of every faith, including both Muslims and Christians. The head of the Coptic Church made an investigation of the apparitions and he declared them miraculous and an authentic appearance of the Virgin Mary.

Also located in the city was a Roman Catholic religious order who sent a report to the Vatican, detailing the extraordinary phenomenon. While Pope Paul VI deferred to the leader of the Coptic Church to make a public decision, a Vatican envoy arrived in Cairo and made their own report. They witnessed the apparition of light and wrote the following details in a formal statement .

The apparitions occurred on many different nights and are continuing in different forms. The Holy Virgin Saint Mary appeared sometimes in full form and sometimes in a bust, surrounded with a halo of shining light. She was seen at times on the openings of the domes on the roof of the church, and at other times outside the domes, moving and walking on the roof of the church and over the domes. When She knelt in reverence in front of the cross, the cross shone with bright light. Waving Her blessed hands and nodding Her holy head, She blessed the people who gathered to observe the miracle. She appeared sometimes in the form of a body like a very bright cloud, and sometimes as a figure of light preceded with heavenly bodies shaped like doves moving at high speeds. The apparitions continued for long periods, up to 2 hours and 15 minutes as in the dawn of Tuesday April 30, 1968 (the 22nd of Barmouda, 1684 A.M.), when She appeared continuously from 2:45 am till 5:00 am. Thousands of people from different denominations and religions, Egyptians and foreign visitors, clergy and scientists, from different classes and professions, all observed the apparitions. The description of each apparition as of the time, location and configuration was identically witnessed by all people, which makes this apparition unique and sublime.

They also related how the apparition was causing a miraculous revival of the Christian faith, with many conversions taking place in the city. Also, various healings were recorded that occurred near the apparition site.

Furthermore, even the Egyptian government investigated the apparition. President Gamal Abdel Nasse witnessed the apparition and the Egyptian police could not find any natural way to explain the phenomenon. Everyone was universally stunned by what they saw and no one could offer a scientific explanation.

There was no particular message associated with the Marian apparition, but it came at a time when the Middle East was in turmoil and after Egypt was defeated in the Arab-Israeli war. It gave people hope in a time of darkness and strengthened the faith of many.


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saint mary apparition in egypt

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Catholic Shrine Basilica

Saint Mary Church, Zeitoun, Cairo, Egypt

saint mary apparition in egypt

Home » Saint Mary Church, Zeitoun, Cairo, Egypt

Saint Mary Church, Zeitoun

saint mary apparition in egypt


Our Lady of Zeitoun, also known simply as El-Zeitoun, Zeitun or rarely Our Lady of Light, was a mass Marian apparition that was reported to have occurred in the Church of the Virgin Mary, Zeitoun district of Cairo, Egypt.

The Church of the Virgin Mary at Zeitoun (The Apparition Church) was built by Tawfik Khalil Ibrahim, under the supervision of the Italian architect Leomingelli. The church was designed as a miniature of the Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul, Turkey. Allegedly based upon a vision Ibrahim had seen, it is said that the Virgin Mary told him that she would appear in her church at Zeitoun after forty years. The church was consecrated during a mass on June 29th, 1925. According to tradition, the site is one of the locations where the holy family stayed during their flight into Egypt.

On 1924; some of Zeitoun Copts though to build a church as there was not utterly any church in this big suburb. Accordingly they recurred the deceased; Mr. Khalil Ibrahim [he was a rich man] and they requested him to donate and contribute by a piece of terrain with a view to build the church. Mr. Khalil promised them to satisfy their request.

The Copts started to collect the donations and benefactions and during this time, Mr. Khalil is died. consequently; they went to Mr. Khalil Ibrahim`s son, Mr. Twafik, in order to give him all the collected money which was 450 EGP. But Mr. Tawfik apologized about the acceptance to receive such money claiming to return all the collected money to their moneyed and saying: “my father was planning to build the church at his own expense. Then I will be adhered to my father’s parole and take the responsibility to fulfill it instead of him”.

Hence, Mr. Twafik agreed with an Italian engineer named “Lymophly” in order to make a design for the Saint Mary church in Zeitoun akin to Aya Sophia in Constantinople.

History of Saint Mary Church, Zeitoun

saint mary apparition in egypt

The church was built in 1925. It has been inaugurated by Bishop Athanasios; bishop of Bany Sweif and the first priest who served in it was the deceased Hegomen Father Daniel Messeha.

Regarding the surface area of the church, it is 250 m². It has five cupolas: the central one is the biggest. It is 17 meter high and has windows that are opened on the nave and on its top, there is a big cross. But the other four cupolas are less big with 12 meter high and have apertures but not related to the church as their floor is the overhead and the ceiling of the church.

Inside the church, there are several icons for Saint Mary, the Angels and the Saints.New icons have been painted subsequent to the apparition of Saint Mary such as a picture for Saint Mary in the principal cupola of the church as well as some of the icons which have been gifted to the church by the Emperor “Haile Sellassie” upon his visit to the church.

The church was designed to surround maximum of twenty families but since the apparition of Saint Mary in it, its public reaches millions.

One of the blessings of Saint Mary`s apparition in the church; the terrain that was a garage for the public transportation and was just in front of the church became the place where was built a big Cathedral which is considered now as the second big Cathedral in the Middle East pertaining to  its area.

The foundation stone of the church was put by the sanctity of the Pope Shenouda III on Thursday march 25, 1976.

saint mary apparition in egypt

Apparition of Our Lady of Zeitoun

On the evening of Tuesday, 2 April 1968 (24 Baramhat 1684 in the Coptic Calendar), sightings of the Virgin Mary and associated phenomena were reported by a group of individuals at the church. Luminous scenes were reported to be seen over the domes of St. Mary church at Zeitoun. The first apparition was seen by the workmen of a garage belonging to the Public Transport Authority opposite the church. Among them was the watchman, Abdul Aziz Ali, who saw a luminous body of a young lady kneeling next to the cross located on the largest dome of the church.

Ali started shouting, “A light over the dome!” Then he called upon his fellow workers to look at the lady on the roof of the church. Some of them thought it was a young lady trying to commit suicide, so they shouted a warning to her. She was standing over the dome in her white robe, and she was holding in her hand what appeared to be an olive branch. Then they saw her moving, and a light was emanating from her body all around her. After identifying her as the Virgin Mary, they began shouting, “It is the Virgin… It is Virgin Mary.”

This apparition was reported to be accompanied by various spiritual phenomena including:

  • Spiritual bodies in the form of doves, flying with great speed, breaking through the sky over the church.
  • Stars dropping very rapidly above the domes and over the roof of the church.
  • Flashes, like lighting, radiating from the church domes, mainly from the northeast dome.
  • Fragrant incense spreading and filling the place over the central dome, the roof, and the church itself.
  • Luminous clouds over the church domes, in the form of the Virgin Mary.

In 1971, after the “miracle of Zeitoun”, the Egyptian artist Yacoub Fanous painted additional icons on the walls of the church. He adorned the apse with a painting of Jesus Christ Pantocrator and, on the dome that was hitherto adorned with stars on a blue background, he painted the Virgin Mary with outspread arms.

saint mary apparition in egypt

Apparition to the Locals

The first apparition of the Virgin Mary at Zeitoun was recorded on the evening of 2 April 1968. The phenomenon was seen by two Muslim bus mechanics, who claimed to witness a woman dressed in white on the roof of Saint Mary’s Coptic Church. One thought she was a nun about to attempt suicide by leaping from the roof, and called for police. Intrigued by the mechanics yelling “don’t jump!”, a crowd gathered at the site. The police attempted to disperse them, saying that the sighting was just a reflection of the light from the street lamps. However, a church custodian suggested the figure was the Virgin Mary, which greatly excited the crowd. The event itself ended after a few minutes.

One week later, on 9 April, the phenomenon reoccurred, again lasting for only a few minutes. After that time apparitions became more frequent, sometimes two or three times a week, for several years, ending in 1971. According to Coptic tradition, Zeitoun is near one of the locations where the Holy Family stayed during their flight into Egypt.

The patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Pope Kyrillos VI appointed a committee of high-ranking priests and bishops to investigate the matter, directed by Bishop Gregorios, bishop of postgraduate studies, Coptic culture and scientific research. On 4 May Pope Kyrillos VI issued an official statement confirming the apparitions. Soon afterward, the Ministry of Tourism also issued a validation of the sightings, and began printing pamphlets.

Nuns of the Society of the Sacred Heart also witnessed the apparitions and sent a detailed report to the Vatican, resulting in the arrival of an envoy on 28 April who also saw the apparitions and sent a report to Pope Paul VI. As the apparition appeared over a Coptic church, the Vatican left the investigation to the Coptic authorities.

The apparitions were also allegedly witnessed by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and images photographed by newspaper photographers and Egyptian television. Investigations performed by the police could find no apparent explanation. No device was found within a radius of fifteen miles capable of projecting the image, and many photos were taken of the alleged apparition by independent photographers. With no alternative explanation and approval from religious and political official, the Egyptian government accepted the apparitions as true.

saint mary apparition in egypt

Skeptical Response

Estimates of the number of observers of the event vary greatly. Thousands were said to have flocked to the Church soon after the first announced occurrences of the phenomenon. Christian author Francis Johnston claims the apparitions were seen by a total of millions of people. Primary sources used by Johnston put 250,000 as the upper limit for a single night, though the difficulty in estimating crowd size in the dark means the number of people in the crowd may have been significantly larger or smaller.

The only secular, English-language account of the events was provided by Cynthia Nelson, a professor of anthropology at the American University in Cairo. She visited the church site on several occasions including 15 April 1968, another week later near the end of April, and on 1 June 1968. Despite reports of regular appearances of the Virgin Mary, Nelson did not see anything that could be identified clearly as such. Instead she only saw a few ‘intermittent flashes of light’ and later, a glow of ambiguous shape shining through palm trees. “But”, she admitted, “the source of the light was a mystery, for the streetlights had been disconnected all around the church for several days.”

Some authors suggest that the sightings must be considered in context. The appearances happened during a period of crisis in Egyptian history and echoed “a widespread feeling that the defeat of Egypt in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war was the result of having abandoned faith in favor of human-made ideas and belief systems”. Sociologists Robert Bartholomew and Erich Goode offer the Zeitoun apparitions as a prominent case of mass hysteria: “It appears that the Marian observers were predisposed by religious background and social expectation to interpreting the light displays as related to the Virgin Mary.”

Professor Michael P. Carroll similarly suggests that the “lights of uncertain origin” were interpreted as Mary due to the societal stresses on Egyptian society at the time, coupled with an association of the Virgin Mary with the Zeitoun area. Carroll notes that Muslims seeing the Virgin wouldn’t be unusual, as Mary is revered in Islam as well.

saint mary apparition in egypt

John S. Derr and Michael A. Persinger propose a possible cause of the lights themselves in Tectonic Strain Theory, the idea that the occurrence of earthquakes causes the appearance of strange lights. Indeed, Zeitoun did see some tectonic activity prior to the events of 1968-1971. Therefore, the source of the lights could have been a by-product of this seismic activity. Appearances of the lights only at night would be possible as such lights might not be visible during daytime; however, Tectonic Strain Theory has yet to provide a mechanism for how tectonic events could cause these lights.

Photos of the event are numerous, though sometimes inconsistent. Most of the photos are blurry or of poor quality, though some do seem to show the Virgin Mary regardless. One of them is either an illustration over a less detailed photo, or a complete illustration, depending on the source.

The sourcing for the most popular photo is unclear, and some skeptics have mentioned inconsistencies such as the bright sunlight on the onlookers heads, while the sky looks black, or the apparition seeming translucent despite other photographs and witness testimony describing it as opaque and very bright. In Cynthia Nelson’s report, she noted that many photos and pictures of the apparition were being sold in the marketplace, which could add a financial incentive for forgery.

Skeptoid podcast produced an episode about the apparition. They criticized Persinger’s Tectonic Strain Theory, noting that many of the so-called earthquake lights are completely explicable, such as lightning from distant storms or transformers exploding as a result of earthquake. They argue that the photographs are either suspiciously illustration-looking or do not show a human figure, and say that many drawings were hawked in the marketplace as souvenirs. The podcast concludes with a proposed explanation of the events: lights of uncertain origin were interpreted as the Virgin Mary because of societal stressors and local tradition.

saint mary apparition in egypt

Golden Jubilee

On 12 May 2018, the Coptic Church celebrated the golden Jubilee of the event. A large number of priests and Christians from all over Egypt attended the celebration. Sub-celebrations have been held from 10 May to 13 May.

Feast Day – 2 nd April

Annual Feast Day of Our Lady of Zeitoun held on 2 nd April.

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Mark is located in Zeitoun. On the night of April 2nd, 1968, a luminous profile of a woman who was identified as the Apparition of Virgin Mary appeared on the roof of this Church. Several witnesses were present at the scene and their detailed accounts are consistent.

saint mary apparition in egypt

Church Visiting Time

  • Every Days : 5:00 am to 11:00 pm

Contact Info

Tel : +20 222-59-2928

How to reach the Church

Cairo International Airport in Cairo Governorate, Egypt is the nearby Airport to the Church.

Hadayeq El Zeitoun Metro Station in Cairo Governorate, Egypt is the nearby Train Station to the Church.

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The Overlooked Marian Apparitions at Zeitoun, Egypt

The Unlikely Marian Apparition at Zeitoun, Egypt

What is the most witnessed Marian apparition of the 20th century? Most would say Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, where approximately 70,000+ people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun. However, most prolifically witnessed miracle of the Virgin Mary in the 20th century, and perhaps ever, was at Zeitoun, Egypt from 1968 to 1971.

The Holy Family in Zeitoun

Zeitoun is one of the locations where the Holy Family supposedly stopped on their flight to Egypt, fleeing King Herod’s murder of the innocents some nineteen centuries earlier. From April 2, 1968 to May 29, 1971, the Virgin Mary appeared weekly on average, especially around feast days, on top of St. Mary’s Coptic Church in Zeitoun for all to see. This was not something just witnessed in a mystical vision by a few; it was a supernatural experience perceived by massive crowds for years. In addition, this occurred in a predominantly Muslim country and at a Coptic Church, which might be why Catholics are less familiar with it. 

The Blessed Virgin Mary was witnessed by hundreds of thousands of people, including Copts, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and even secular Marxists, like the former Egyptian President Abdel Nasser. This supposedly greatly influenced him in his relations with Christians, who at the time were being targeted: red crosses painted on their houses to mark them. This was also a time of rapid expansion of Islamic fundamentalism.

Perhaps, Mary had come to mollify these tensions against Copts and other Christians in this very vulnerable time. Egypt had recently been defeated by Israel ten months earlier in the June 1967 Six-Day War. The Zeitoun years were a turning point from the ’67 war to the Camp David Accords, and finally, a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, on the one hand, and rise of Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood on the other. 

Miraculous Apparition

The miraculous nature of the apparitions drew Egypt’s full attention. Black and white photographs exist showing a brightly luminous being, the Blessed Virgin Mary, on top the Church. The apparitions would begin with a ball of light gradually materializing, and then, taking on the form of the Virgin Mary. One described Mary as “bright as a million suns.” They called her Our Lady of Light. She was accompanied by other phenomenon as well.

Large, luminous doves moved swiftly across the sky, and at times flying in formations of two, seven or twelve, and in the shape of a cross. Incense as from “millions of censors” billowed up around her with a sweet fragrance. There were mysterious flashing lights, a canopy of shooting stars, like “a shower of diamonds made of light,” as one witness recalled. Many miraculous healings occurred too, from blindness, polio, paralysis, cripples, cancer and terminal illness. There were also spiritual conversions of Muslims and others to Christianity.  

The Vatican made no official statement on its authenticity, deferring to the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Coptic Church investigated the matter and determined it was an authentic and true phenomenon. The civil government as well concluded that something real was happening at Zeitoun. At one point, the authorities even investigated a fifteen-mile radius for electronic devices and cut all power off to the area to create a blackout, yet Mary continued to appear. 

An Initial Vision

The story begins much earlier, however, around 1920, when a Coptic Christian, Tawfik Khalil Abraham, who owned this spot of land in Zeitoun, was about to build a hotel there. Then, the Blessed Virgin Mary visited him in a dream requesting instead that he build a Coptic Church in her honor. If he did so, she promised to perform a miracle there sometime in the future.

In 1925, the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mary was completed. Then, as promised, the miracle happened years later beginning on April 2, 1968. Two Muslim garage attendants noticed a woman on the top of the Church and thought she was about to commit suicide. One of the attendants, Farouk Mohammed Atwa, yelled up to her “Lady, don’t jump!” Soon, a crowd had gathered and realized that this was no ordinary woman but the Blessed Virgin Mary herself.

The apparitions continued unabated, with Mary appearing for a few nights each week for the next three years. People from all around began to come to St. Mary’s in Zeitoun to see the miraculous apparitions. The crowds grew larger and larger. By some accounts, 250,000 at the highpoint would come nightly to watch for Mary appearing from Heaven. 

A Silent Witness

Despite the length of the apparitions and the number of witnesses, the Blessed Virgin Mary did not speak or deliver any verbal messages. She maintained an attitude of prayer bowing towards the cross and blessing the people. Mary was seen gliding slowly about the domes of the Church, sometimes standing for two to three hours in the same spot, and at times kneeling before the cross on the roof. She acknowledged the people’s presence by smiling at the crowd and blessing them with her hands.

Mary had long white and blue robes, and a veil of bluish-white light. They could see her garments moving in the warm night breeze. She had a dazzling crown on her head with a halo of bright light. Sometimes the witnesses saw her with the infant Jesus, or sometimes with the twelve-year old Jesus, and other times, with St. Joseph. Still other times, she was seen carrying a cross, or an olive branch—a symbol typically for peace and unity.

Bishop Athanasius of Beni Soueiff, sent personally from the Coptic pope, said,

“There she was, five or six meters above the dome, high in the sky, full figure, like a phosphorous statue, but not so stiff as a statue. There was movement of the body and of the clothing . . . she was very quiet, full of glory.”

One Coptic priest noted that, “there were rays [of light] coming down from her hands,” like depicted in the miraculous medal.   

Coptic Bishop Marcos said when Mary looked at the crowd, it seemed as though “she concentrated her eyes on them exactly.” Despite the number of people, it felt personal and individual. One witness, American Pearl Zaki, described being there, “Yet I think each person present, as I talked with them and understood, felt alone with her and drawn completely to her.”

A certain Coptic Christian, Dr. Khairy Malek, who witnessed the apparitions, said he could even see her teeth when she smiled at them. At one point, the crowd turned and began shouting up towards the moon. When Dr. Malek turned, he saw the Virgin Mary’s “whole face stamped on face of the moon.” Clearly, something extraordinary and profound occured in Zeitoun between 1968 to 1971. The next question is why then, and why there?

Why Zeitoun?

As mentioned, Zeitoun, Cairo was one of the traditional locations that the Holy Family had fled to escape the slaughter of the innocents under King Herod, as Gospel explains:

“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matt. 2:13)

Nevertheless, Herod carried out his murderous intent against the infants (Matt. 2:16). Perhaps, the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing at Zeitoun was to honor the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt from Herod’s massacre of the innocent children. 

Blogger and author Emmet O’Regan has pointed out that 1968-1971 was the very same timeframe for the mass legalization of abortion. In April 1968, the very same month that Zeitoun began, the United Kingdom enacted the Abortion Act. This was the initial break in the dam inundating the world with legalized abortion. This quickly spread to the United States in loosening abortion laws in 1969, and soon thereafter, Roe v. Wade was argued in 1971, and decided on January 22, 1973. This opened the doors to the mass slaughter of the innocents worldwide. It is the beginning of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents on an apocalyptic level.

Zeitioun is very much like Blessed Virgin Mary’s dramatic and unprecedented warning at Fatima in 1917, just before the unleashing of the errors of Communism upon the world in the Russian Revolution. Yet, at Zeitoun there were no messages, no visions, and no secrets. Mary’s message was her silent presence in that time and at that location. The Blessed Virgin Mary came, again, in unprecedented fashion in Zeitoun, perhaps, to warn the world of new evils that were about to be unleashed upon it — this time with abortion. Perhaps, it was an appeal, too, against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt.

Our Lady of Zeitoun, Pray for Us!

Maybe not coincidentally, apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary were seen there in 2000-2001, and again, in 2006, in Assiut — which is also traditionally the southernmost point that the Holy Family travelled to in their Egyptian flight. Another purported apparition, then, occurred in Warraq, Egypt in 2009, among other locations.

Was the Blessed Virgin Mary retracing the steps of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt some two millennia later? In these unprecedented revelations, the Blessed Virgin Mary came to Zeitoun as Our Lady of Light, that is, the Woman clothed with the Sun with a crown on her head, much like the great portent that appears in Heaven (Rev. 12:1).

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. 

Tagged as: Best of Week , egypt , holy family , marian apparitions , Mary , Zeitoun

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By Brian Kranick

Brian Kranick's latest book is Burning Bush, Burning Hearts—Exodus as a Paradigm of the Gospel . Brian is a freelance writer focusing on all things Catholic. He has a master's degree in Systematic Theology from Christendom College. He has spent years working as an analyst in the Intelligence Community, and currently resides with his wife and three children in the Pacific Northwest.  He is the author of the blog: .

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Egypt celebrates 50th anniversary of virgin mary apparition.

Dunya Hassanin

Thu, 10 May 2018 - 02:32 GMT

saint mary apparition in egypt

File photo of an Egyptian Orthodox Church. (Photo:Reuters)

saint mary apparition in egypt

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Pope tawadros, virgin mary, copt in egypt.

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April 2, 1968. Zeitoun, Egypt, a suburb outside Cairo. The country was in the midst of the Arab-Israeli conflict, on the heels of the Six-Day War. Tensions ran high in the predominantly Muslim country, home to a minority of Christians. At the center of it all, on Tumanbay Street, sat St. Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church. It was built in 1923 because of a vision. One night, landowner Tawfik Khalil Ibrahim had a dream. The Virgin Mary told him to build her a church in Zeitoun. The very place the Holy Family was said to have passed on their flight to Egypt. If Tawfik did as she asked, Mary promised to appear at the church in 40 years’ time. Forty years passed. Nothing happened. Until the evening of April 2…

Photo of Mary apparition from magazine story

Just past 8:30 p.m. A typical Tuesday evening for Farouk Mohamed Atwa. The 31-year-old Muslim mechanic had just finished his shift. He had severe gangrene on an injured finger – the amputation was scheduled for the next day. On his way out of the garage, Farouk glanced up at the cathedral across the street. He couldn’t believe what he saw. A woman in white standing at the highest point of the church’s dome. He called out to her, begging her not to jump.

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Close up photo of Mary apparition

All the commotion drew a crowd. Then, as bystanders watched, the woman was bathed in a bright light. She rose in the air, hovering above the cathedral roof and blessing the people below. Doves appeared out of nowhere. And then, just like that, she disappeared. The next morning, Farouk arrived at the hospital. The doctors sent him home. When they pulled back the bandage on his finger, they found it had completely and mysteriously healed.

Photo of newspaper clipping from magazine story

A week later, on April 9, Mary appeared again, this time for several minutes. Convinced it was an elaborate hoax, police conducted an extensive search of the 15-mile radius around the church. They were sure they’d find a source for the apparitions – some projector of sorts. They found nothing. The Coptic Orthodox Church conducted its own investigations. On May 5, 1968, the pope of Alexandria – Kyrillos VI – issued a statement deeming the sightings authentic. So did the Vatican.

Photo of birds of light from magazine story

Over the next three years, Mary is said to have appeared above the cathedral again and again, sometimes multiple times a week. Always silent, always at night. Often accompanied by what witnesses described as “birds of light” or a “shower of diamonds” that seemed to form a cross. One witness, an American named Pearl Zaki, traveled to Cairo when she heard of the apparitions.  “I could see in faint outline the erect white, statue-like figure,” she writes in Before Our Eyes: The Virgin Mary of Zeitoun, Egypt. “Her arms were at her side. Then they moved slowly upward into the position of hands folded in prayer.”

A photo of a woman with a serene, calm expression.

Many people claimed to be miraculously healed after seeing the apparition. In her book, Pearl Zaki interviewed Dr. William Nashed Zaki, the ex-director of the Masarra Unit for Medical Treatment in Cairo. He’d been suffering from a hernia for 13 years. Desperate for relief, he visited the church in Zeitoun on May 30, 1968. “Just before dawn, I saw the Blessed Virgin,” he recalled. “I prayed for a miraculous cure through her intercession. When I reached home, no pain of any sort was bothering me. The hernia had been absolutely cured.”

A photo of a dove in mid flight.

The purported miracles weren’t limited to Zeitoun. Many reported unusual encounters with a woman dressed in white during the time of the apparitions. Like the pair of doctors traveling to Cairo through the Wadi-al-Naturn Valley. They spotted a young woman in white, walking alongside the road. Assuming she was a nun from a nearby monastery, they offered her a ride. She was headed to Zeitoun. When they arrived in Cairo, they opened the car door for her. A white dove flew out. And the woman? She was gone.

Historic photo of a crowd at Zeitoun, Egypt.

From 1968 to 1971, it’s estimated that one million people claimed to see Mary in Zeitoun. Sometimes for mere minutes, sometimes for hours. TV crews descended on the small town. People of all faiths traveled far and wide, hoping to catch a glimpse. Biblical researcher Rebecca Jackson, co-author of A Lady of Light Appears in Egypt, conducted numerous interviews with the eyewitnesses. “What sticks out is that everyone agrees on what they saw, regardless of their faith,” she says. “They were convinced that what they saw in Zeitoun was for real.”

Virgin Mary Church in Zeitoun, Egypt.

Mary’s last recorded appearance at the church took place on May 29, 1971. She was said to be seen holding an olive branch. A symbol of peace. In fact, “Zeitoun” comes from the Arabic word for olives. “I believe Mary’s appearance in Zeitoun was a call for peace and healing in the area, and it was a promise fulfilled,” Jackson says. “She came back to Egypt. Just like she said she would.”

saint mary apparition in egypt

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saint mary apparition in egypt


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