18-02-2019 12:39 AM

Nermine al-Zahar

The Coptic congregation in Port Said, the city on the Northern tip of the Suez Canal, have been elated to witness for the 29th year in succession miraculous oil dripping from the icon of the Holy Virgin at the church of the Holy Virgin and Anba Bishoi.

The oil drips from a large modern paper icon of St Mary, Our Lady of Zaitoun (1.5m x 0.5m).

The church had been originally named after Anba Bishoi till the holy oil began dripping from the icon in 1990, after which it was spontaneously given the name “church of the Holy Virgin and Anba Bishoi”.

Christians from all over Egypt, and from other places in the world, flock to the church for the blessings of the oil.

The transparent, almost colourless oil has a distinctive aromatic smell reminiscent of fresh flowers. It drips from the hands of the Holy Virgin and is famous for its miraculous healing properties.

Fr Ermiya Fahmy, spokesperson of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Port Said, told Watani the history of the oil-dripping icon.

“The story goes back to 1990,” Fr Ermiya said, “when a Port Said woman named Samia Youssef suffered from vicious lung cancer. The Holy Virgin appeared to Ms Youssef in a dream, accompanied by a group of saints including Anba Bishoi, a Coptic 4th-century saint monk famous for having carried the Lord Jesus Christ and washed His feet. Ms Youssef says the Holy Virgin and the saints operated on her, and she was totally cured. Even though she had never been a churchgoer, was a chain smoker and lived a frivolous life, she felt a strong urge to go to church. She went, and it happened that the priest was delivering a sermon on repentance. She broke into tears, and prayed fervently asking for the intercession of the Holy Virgin.

”The Virgin’s Apparition icon was in the home of Ms Youssef. Oil started dripping from the icon then, so she directly took it to the church. That was in February 1990.

“Since that time, the oil has been almost incessantly dripping from the hands of the Holy Virgin in the icon.”

The miracle of the dripping oil was cited in the weekly al-Kiraza magazine, the mouthpiece of the Coptic Orthodox Church, a recognition of the miracle by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Fr Ermiya says the oil drips from mid-February every year, and continues to drip till the end of the following January, after which it resumes dripping. In the meantime, Anba Tadros, Bishop of Port Said, prepares for the upcoming drip by setting up a new plastic bag below the icon to collect the oil which is then packed in small vials and distributed among the congregation.

Visitors to the church would find an icon of Anba Bishoi, after whom the church is named, and part of his relics. Other colourful icons of the Holy Virgin and Christ are hung on the church walls, also narratives of the miracles that took place through the miraculous oil.

Dominated by French architecture-style, Port Said is lucky to include a number of churches that originated with the French engineers who had worked on the Suez Canal which opened for navigation on 17 November 1869.

“There are other churches all over the world where oil drips from icons of the Holy Virgin,” Fr Ermiya remarked. “But non of them saw the oil drip for 29 successive years as from the icon at our church in Port Said.”

Watani International

17 February 2019

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