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EGYPT: Is it the Virgin Mary or just a curious flash of light?

1The faithful say she comes in a flash of light amid a swirl of pigeons.  

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.

Since then, many Copts, and more than a few Muslims, have spent their evenings camping outside the church to either be blessed by a glimpse of the "miraculous" scene or to figure out just what's happening in the night sky. It has turned into a pilgrimage for the curious and the devout at a time when Egypt is beset by poverty, high unemployment and a bruised sense of identity, especially after the national soccer team's recent loss to Algeria knocked it out of contention for the World Cup.

"The scene on Saturday was huge when we saw the lightning and white pigeons flying around us. White pigeons always accompany apparitions like these," one Copt told The Times.

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."

However, and according to some intellectuals, it is this very belief of apparitions related to crisis that causes people to be easily influenced by such "alleged phenomenon."

"What is going on now is a result of people's massive feeling of corruption, social injustice and the financial gap between various classes in Egypt," said prominent Coptic scriptwriter Atef Beshay. "Some people are desperately seeking 'aid'  from anyone, even if this aid will only come from the Virgin Mary's apparition.

"We also shouldn’t disregard the increasing religious tensions between Muslims and Copts. Some Copts wait for phenomenon like this because it gives them some sort of mental advantage over Muslims," Beshay said.

Writer Youssef Al Qaied agrees with Beshay that tough living has forced many Egyptian to turn to spiritualities: "When finances and living expenses are not easy to secure, people find a safe haven in creating spiritual beliefs that can pull them out of their miseries even if those beliefs have no practical or scientific bases."

Unlike their Coptic counterparts, most Muslims are not convinced. Many of them have seen light flashes in recent days, but certainly don't believe it was the Virgin Mary. 

"I was one of the first to notice the laser-like lights. But nothing happened more than this. The shape of Virgin Mary never appeared in front of my eyes," said Mohamed Soliman, who lives one block away from the church.

Columnist Khaled Muntaser said the light over the church could be scientifically explained: "Lightning in these situations could be no more than a glow accompanying any electric discharge in the sky of a certain area. This glow is scientifically known as St. Elmo's fire, and it its more likely to occur during winter. It is just a static electricity like the one we sometimes feel while taking off a polyester shirt."

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: People waiting outside Virgin Mary Orthodox Church. Credit: Al Destour.

Comments () | Archives (58)

Funny that your reporter is doing his best to cast doubts on something seen by thousands, would the LA Times send him again to see for himself instead of just taking orders from State Security to deny the fact. This video is of an appearance which took place on 16th December 2009 and lasted for 3 hours
Word of advice change your reporter, he already lost credidibility.

@George Sadek

If you noticed dear, the electricity was off from the beginning of the video by state security because the church always leaves the crosses illuminated and they turned off from here, please don't support common ignorance of commentators looool

ohh yea of little faith...

The writer was very baised and ignored the fact that St. mary apparations was not limited to Egypt only. It is a worldwide phenomena. St. Mary appeared in France, Beligum, United States and Mexico.

here u r the real video on youtube watch the min 4:43 when the electricity was cut the flas light radiator appeared . plz don't support the common ignorance of egyptian ordothx

It is very aggravating, that your Muslim correspondent would be the only one to cast doubts on the appearance of the Virgin. All Egyptian TV station showed it, with witnesses from Muslims and Christians. Shame on him

To those who feel that only "weak minded" and "sheep" could believe things like this, your lack of faith in the miracles of the world don't surprise me. Apparitions of St. Mary in Egypt has happened many times, and thousands of people have tried and failed to deny it, or to disprove the claims as atmospheric occurrences, or electrical discharges, as this derogatory article has stated. Video's clearly show the Virgin Mary atop the roof of this church, and her appearance comes at the perfect time when Coptic Christians are facing devastation and turmoil in their homeland. The writer of this article fails to mention the tremendous religious discriminations that Copts experience, and how an apparition from St. Mary can keep their faith strong, and keep them working towards a future they wish they could attain. Faith is a strange thing to those who have never experienced it, and those who do have a strong faith in Christ understand the meaning behind her appearance.

I am all for a scientific explanation if we can find one. The St. Elmo's fire theory can't explain why it happens over top the domes of a church (named St. Mary's Church) besides, it wasn't just a faint light or flashes, it was a clear illuminous object shaped like a person that remained for few minutes. Refer to the youtube videos.

Saint Mary appeared in Egypt on Saturday 12/10/2009 (10:00PM) until 12/11/2009 (3:00AM) and last night in egypt on the top of Archangel Michael and Saint Mary Church in El-Warrak, Egypt. Thousands of Christians and Muslims saw her and wittnessed her apparition. she appeared in 2 different places of the church as shown in the following 2 links:

last night she appeared again after the Egyptian Intelligence cut the power off from the area, and you can see in the following links that crosses are not lighted:


Miracles can and do happen, not just on a public scale like this one (and I do believe it is the Virgin Mary) but in the daily life of every one of us. How many times you passed an exam you thought you would never pass? How many times you had a narrow escape from a serious accident?
If you do not believe in miracles, please ignore these news, but save us your insulting and stupid remarks.

Virigin Mary & pigeons and 8 angels on 12/16 overnight! was that not enough?! how kind is our lord Jesus, nobody can deny that unless he is a BIG lier!
if i see the sun in the morning and you say there is no sun! how can i persuade you!!??? you say whatever and that wont change the facts that Virgin MAry blesses the people over El-Waraq cairo egypt.

please see this two videos and take your decision



I can understand the cautious attitude as you are writing about this story but I don't think you were very fair in the reporting, you wrote it without any indication if you saw any of the videos that both Muslims and Christians that lasted much longer than 4 or 5 minutes at a time, so I am not sure how you can classify it as "flashes". Also, its true that the videos did not show the virgin Mary perhaps, but eye witness, again both Muslim and Christian identified her form to be the Virgin Mary. I think its very irresponsible of you as a journalist to paint this story with this much unbelief when there is lots of tangible evidence to indicate that its alot more than you present.

what a serprise to the world from VIRGIN MARY?

I saw this video and can't figure out how people could think it's just flashes of light. You can see the figure of the blessed virgin mary. And, as others have stated, it's not the first time she appear in egypt. Hopefully things get better between the copts and muslims in egypt.

US TV coverage of brooklyn miracle in coptic church with st.mary

This the HOLY VIRGIN MARY , this is not the first time that she appears in churches but not in mosques …
If you do remember in Zeitun , Assiut , …. In Egypt and also all over the world But still in churches only.
A lot of miracles did happen

Only the weak minded and the sheep of the world believe in this crap.

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