By Stephen Ryan  

In two days Martin Luther King would be dead, a month after that Robert Kennedy would die in a crowded hotel hallway in California. These tumultuous events were soon followed by riots in Chicago, a music festival in Vermont that would define a generation and unleash a cultural

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tsunami of change in America.

The day was April 2, 1968 and on that day perhaps the most dramatic manifestation of the supernatural since the Christ walked on earth occurred in Egypt in the outskirts of Cairo in a town called Zietoun.  The Egyptian town is known as the place where Mary had come with Joseph and Jesus when they fled from Herod.

The apparition of the Virgin Mary was first seen by Muslim bus mechanic, Farouk Mohammed Atwa, who worked across the street from the church of Saint Demiana. At first, he thought that the apparition was a woman attempting suicide by jumping from the structure. Two other men also noticed a white figure on the top of the church.

The sighting was reported to the police.  A crowd began to gather by the cathedral and the police attempted to disperse it. According to the police, the sighting was just a reflection of the light from the street lamps.

However, the crowds viewed the sighting as a clear apparition of the Virgin Mary, and so the attempts by the police to disperse the crowd were unsuccessful. The apparition lasted a few minutes that night but within months millions of people bore witness to the extraordinary event of the miraculous presence of the Virgin Mary as she continued to appear above the Coptic church almost nightly.

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What makes the Miracle of Zeitoun so special is the indisputable visual evidence and the eye-witness testimony of so many people.  The apparitions of the Virgin Mary were in fact televised.   She was seen by more than a million people. The apparitions were broadcast by Egyptian TV, photographed by hundreds of photographers and personally witnessed by Egyptian President Abdul Nasser, an avowed Marxist.

The apparitions lasted for three years with numerous unaccountable healings recorded by various medical professionals. The local police, who initially thought the apparitions were an elaborate hoax, searched a 15-mile radius surrounding the site to uncover any type of device that could be used to project such images. They were completely unsuccessful.

Moslems who saw the apparitions chanted from the Koran, “Mary, God has chosen thee. And purified thee; He has chosen thee “Above all women.” She was seen accompanied by doves of light in apparitions that lasted from a few minutes to as long as nine hours. Kyrillos VI, the Orthodox patriarch, formed a commission to investigate the apparitions.

A number of the commissioners observed plumes of fragrant purple smoke rising from the church at the time of the apparitions and the figure of a woman surrounded by a very bright globe of light accompanied by doves of light. A digitally-enhanced, negative image of one television frame is shown at the top of this page to enable you a see an outline of what was seen by hundreds of thousands in Egypt.

While the appearances at Zietum were silent, the silence spoke volumes to those who came to see and strengthen their faith. The local Coptic Patriarch, Kyrillos VI, publicly announced a year after the apparitions started that he had no doubt that the Mother of God was appearing above the roof of St. Mary’s Coptic Church.

For those who, like Thomas, needed to see for themselves, Mary offered an unequivocal televised demonstration at Zeitun. Yet, because of an unresponsive media and an indifferent world, very few outside of Egypt learned of her astonishing appearances there until well after they had ended.

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