To An Alleged Visionary In Syria
The theologian quoted by Pope Benedict in his famous remarks at the University of Regensburg is linked to an alleged seer and stigmatic from Syria.
The theologian is Professor Adel Theodor Khoury, whose writings were directly referenced by the Pope in that hotly controversial talk during a trip in August to his homeland of Germany.
"I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodor Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on -- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara -- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both," intoned the Pope.
"In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: 'There is no compulsion in religion.' According to the experts, this is one of the surahs of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the 'Book' and the 'infidels,' he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"
It was that last line, drawn from Professor Khoury's book, that provoked Muslim protests and even violence worldwide. Until his retirement in 1993, Khoury was head of the theology department of Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany.
In tighter circles, however, the professor long has been better known in association with a woman in the Soufanieh area of Damascus, Syria, named Myrna Nazzour -- whose mission has been religious unity. Nazzour is the surname of her Greek Orthodox spouse; her Catholic maiden name was Mynra (nee Maria) Koubet al-Akhras.
During 1982 Muslims, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox alike watched in common wonderment as an icon of Mary she owned exuded oil starting on November 22.
Within days -- allegedly -- the Virgin began appearing to Myrna herself, coming in a globe of light and leaving with three flashes. The phenomena continue (for your discernment).
Professor Khoury reportedly was with Myrna on Holy Thursday in 2004 and assisted at Mass at her home along with a group preparing for a trip by the seer to Germany.
He also wrote a book about the phenomena, Sufanieh – Eine Botschaft für die Christen in der Welt ("Soufanieh, a Message for the Christians of the World," available only in German, out of print) about the phenomena surrounding the Byzantine icon as well as Myrna's unusual stigmata.
Ironic it is that remarks from an old emperor brought to light by the academic would spark discord when the message from the alleged apparitions focused in a special fashion on religious tolerance -- with Muslims and Christians alike witnessing the phenomena, which in some circles are controversial.
The messages were approved by the Greek Orthodox Church and didn't come solely from Mary. Jesus too was said to appear to Myrna, as a blinding, all-encompassing light.
"The Church is the kingdom of Heaven on earth," Myrna quoted Mary as saying. "He who divides it sins. He who is happy with those divisions also sins... Do not be afraid. I am with you. Through you I will educate my generation."
It is not clear to what degree, but the messages from Myrna undoubtedly influenced Professor Khoury.
Many felt the theme of religious unity was especially poignant in that Damascus had played a role in the schisms between East and West, when what is now the Orthodox Church split from Rome. It was in Damascus that a saint named John Damascene defended the veneration of religious images.
On August 14, 1987, Jesus allegedly told Myrna, "[Mary] is My mother from whom I was born. He who honors her honors Me. He who denies her denies Me."
[According to a website focused
on this apparition, strange events are part of it. "On September 13, 1984, Myrna
momentarily lost her eyesight. Her eyes were open and looked normal, but she
couldn't see anything except a bright light. When sacred objects were placed in
front of her, she could see them as if made of white light. Myrna's face glowed
with happiness and her body emitted a kind of perfume.
"Myrna fasted for these three days and didn't sleep at all. The light was so beautiful and heavenly that she didn't want it to ever end. Finally, as the third day was coming to an end, Myrna said a prayer that she would sleep just for one half hour. She then felt a hand softly covering her eyes as if to close them. At 9:00 p.m. Myrna vomited a perfumed oil and at midnight she finally recovered her sight."
Alleged message from Jesus Christ November 26, 2001: "The act of Adoration, meditation, thanksgiving and spiritual guidance rejoice Me. But the whole is incomplete without your unity at the altar. I am giving you My Body and My Blood as a proof of My fidelity and love. Receive from Me this sacrament with trust and faith, because this sacrament comforts you, provides you with strength and wisdom and increases you in grace. Difficult days are coming. Turmoil within the Church."]
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