Our Lady of Zeitoun

Our Lady of Zeitoun
LocationZeitoun, Cairo, Egypt
DateApril 2nd, 1968
TypeMarian Apparition
ApprovalCoptic Orthodox Church
ShrineChurch of the Virgin Mary

Our Lady of Zeitoun, also known simply as El-Zeitoun, Zeitun or rarely Our Lady of Light, was a mass Marian apparition that occurred in the Zeitoun district of Cairo, Egypt, over a period of 2–3 years beginning on April 2, 1968.


The first apparition of the Virgin Mary at Zeitoun was recorded on the evening of April 2, 1968, when a Muslim bus mechanic named Farouk Mohammed Atwa, who worked across the street from St. Mary's Coptic Church in Zeitoun, supposedly thought he saw a woman attempting suicide by jumping from the structure.[citation needed] Two other men also noticed a white figure on the top of the church[1] and the sighting was reported to the police.[2] A crowd gathered on the site and the police attempted to disperse it. According to the police, the sighting was just a reflection of the light from the street lamps.[2] However, a church custodian suggested the figure was the Virgin Mary, which greatly excited the crowd. Because of this, the attempts by the police to disperse the crowd were unsuccessful.[2] The event itself ended after a few minutes.

One week later on April 9 the phenomenon reoccurred, again lasting for only a few minutes. After that time apparitions became more frequent, sometimes two-three times a week, for several years, ending in 1971.[2] According to Coptic tradition, Zeitoun is near one of the locations where the Holy family stayed during their flight into Egypt.

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Pope of Alexandria, Kyrillos VI appointed a committee of high-ranking priests and bishops to investigate the matter, headed by Bishop Gregorios, bishop of postgraduate studies, Coptic culture and scientific research.[3] On May 4 Kyrillos VI issued an official statement confirming the apparitions.[4] Soon after, the Ministry of Tourism also issued a validation of the sightings, and reportedly began distributing pamphlets.[citation needed]

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 April 28 who also saw the apparitions and sent a report to Pope Paul VI[citation needed]. As the apparition appeared over a Coptic church, the Vatican left the investigation to the Coptic authorities. On May 5, 1968, Coptic Orthodox Pope Kyrillos VI approved the apparition.

The apparitions were also allegedly witnessed by President Gamal Abdel Nasser,[5] and captured by newspaper photographers and Egyptian television. Soon after the apparition the Ministry of Tourism certified the sightings as legitimate, and began to distribute fliers promoting Zeitoun for pilgrimage. 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 from independent sources, though often of very low quality. With no alternative explanations and approval from religious and political leaders, the Egyptian government accepted the apparitions as true.[6]

Skeptical Response to Events

Estimates of the number of observers of the event vary greatly. Thousands were said to have flocked to the Church after the first announced occurrences of the phenomenon. Some claim the apparitions were seen by millions. Primary sources put 250,000 as the upper limit for a single night, though the difficulty in estimating crowd size in the dark means that number may be an overestimate.[7] Cynthia Nelson was a professor of anthropology at American University in Cairo and the founding director of the Institute of Gender and Women's Studies. She visited the church site on several occasions including April 15, 1968, another week later near the end of April and on June 1, 1968. Despite the accounts of ongoing, if irregular, visitations by the Marian apparition, Cynthia Nelson documents seeing nothing other than a few 'intermittent flashes of light'.[8]

Some authors suggest that the sightings must be considered in context. The appearances came at 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."[9]

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.”[10]

Professor Micheal P. Carrol 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. Muslims seeing the Virgin wouldn't be unusual, as Mary is revered in Islam as well.[11]

Though the above analyses provide reasons for how the crowd interpreted the lights, they provide no explanations for the light phenomena themselves. John S. Derr and Michael A. Persinger propose a possible cause in Tectonic Strain Theory, the idea that tectonic events seem to be highly correlated with sightings of strange lights. Indeed, Zeitoun did see tectonic activity prior to events. Therefore, the source of the lights could have been simply a by-product of this seismic activity.[12] However, this doesn't explain the fact that the phenomenon only occurred at night, and Tectonic Strain Theory has yet to provide a mechanism for how tectonic events cause these lights in the first place.[13]

The photos of the event are numerous, though inconsistent. Most of the photos are blurry or of low quality, though some do seem to show the Virgin Mary regardless. One of them is in fact a drawing, as it is attributed by newspapers at the time.[14] The sourcing for the most popular photo is unclear, and some skeptics have pointed out inconsistencies such as the light on the cross being darker than it should, and the apparition seeming translucent despite other photographs and witness testimony describing it as opaque and very bright.[15] In Cynthia Nelson's report, she noted that many photos and pictures of the apparition were being sold in the marketplace, adding a financial incentive for forgery.[8]

Golden Jubilee

On 12 May 2018, the Coptic Church celebrated the golden Jubilee of the event.[16] Pope Tawadros II held the four Holy Mass.[17] A large number of priests and Christians from all over Egypt attended the celebration, Sub-celebrations have been held from May 10 to May 13.[18][19][20]

See also


  1. ^ Carroll, Michael P. (1992), The cult of the Virgin Mary: psychological origins, Princeton University Press, pp. 211–212, ISBN 0-691-02867-2
  2. ^ a b c d Michael P. Carroll The cult of the Virgin Mary: psychological origins, p. 212
  3. ^ "The Apparitions Of The Blessed Holy Virgin Mary"
  4. ^ Bishop Grigorius (1968), ST. MARY'S TRANSFIGURATIONS (The Coptic Orthodox Church of Zeitun), Cairo: Dar Memphis Press, pp. 16–18
  5. ^ LaFave, Peter. "When Mary Returned to Egypt", The Christian Review, 21 January 2016
  6. ^ Johnston, Francis. When Millions Saw Mary. Augustine Publishing Co., 1980 ISBN 0-85172-631-3
  7. ^ Ouellet, Eric (2011-10-12). "Parasociology: Marian Apparitions at El-Zeitoun and Social Psi (Part 2)". Parasociology. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  8. ^ a b Nelson, Cynthia (September 1973). "The Virgin of Zeitoun". Worldview. 16 (9): 5–11. doi:10.1017/S0084255900019951. ISSN 0084-2559.
  9. ^ Musso, Valeria Céspedes. Marian apparitions in cultural contexts : applying Jungian concepts to mass visions of the Virgin Mary. Abingdon, Oxon. ISBN 978-0-429-94124-5. OCLC 1043954342.
  10. ^ N4CM (2017-02-01). "Mass Delusions and Hysterias: Highlights from the Past Millennium". Retrieved 2020-11-02.
  11. ^ Carroll, Michael P. The cult of the Virgin Mary : psychological origins. Princeton, New Jersey. ISBN 0-691-09420-9. OCLC 13108590.
  12. ^ Derr, John S.; Persinger, Michael A. (2016-08-31). "Geophysical Variables and Behavior: LIV. Zeitoun (Egypt) Apparitions of the Virgin Mary as Tectonic Strain-Induced Luminosities:". Perceptual and Motor Skills. doi:10.2466/pms.1989.68.1.123.
  13. ^ Ouellet, Eric (2011-10-31). "Parasociology: Marian Apparitions at El-Zeitoun and Social Psi (Part 3)". Parasociology. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  14. ^ "Zeitun - OrthodoxWiki". orthodoxwiki.org. Retrieved 2020-11-02.
  15. ^ Ouellet, Eric (2013-04-25). "Parasociology: Marian Apparitions at El-Zeitoun and Social Psi (part 5)". Parasociology. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  16. ^ https://www.youm7.com/story/2018/5/10/الكنيسة-تبدأ-اليوم-الاحتفال-باليوبيل-الذهبى-لظهور-العذراء-بكنيسة-الزيتون/3785989
  17. ^ https://www.youm7.com/story/2018/5/12/البابا-تواضروس-يترأس-صلوات-عشية-الاحتفال-بظهور-العذراء-فى-الزيتون/3789967
  18. ^ "اليوم.. 4 قداسات للاحتفال باليوبيل الذهبي لتجلي العذراء مريم".
  19. ^ "الأقباط متحدون - شاهد.. الاحتفال باليوبيل الذهبي لظهور العذراء مريم".
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-07-02. Retrieved 2018-05-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further reading

  • Pearl Zaki (1977). Our Lord's Mother visits Egypt in 1968 & 1969. Publisher Dar el Alam el Arabi. Available online
  • Francis Johnston (1980). When Millions Saw Mary. Augustine Publishing Co. ISBN 0-85172-631-3 also available online
  • Youssef G. Kamell/ John P. Jackson/ Rebecca S. Jackson (1996): A Lady of Light Appears in Egypt. The story of Zeitoun. St. Mark's Avenue Press.
  • Père Francois Brune (2004): La Vièrge de l'Egypte. L'incroyable apparition de Marie à des millions d'Egyptiens. Editions Le jardin des Livres.
  • Articles "Caire III - Caire X", in: Laurentin, René / Sbalchiero, Patrick (eds.)(2007): Dictionnaire des "apparitions" de la Vierge Marie. Fayard.

External links

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