Vassula's visit to Johannesburg, South Africa, 20th to 27th July, 2000
Vassula was in Lesotho last year, but we all remember clearly her first visit to the Republic of South Africa in Nov/Dec 1993, when she drew large audiences for her presentations in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, accompanied by Fr. Michael O'Carroll CSSp, the well-known Catholic theologian and author who supports and defends Vassula's prophetic ministry.
We were beside ourselves with joy when our small, dedicated planning committee was told in May that Vassula would be in Johannesburg again in July. Our committee was headed by Winnnie Williams, with Marco Visentin, Gracinda Jardim, Martin and Jonel Vermeulen and myself completing the team. I was in charge of publicity (PR), while another more informal network of people assisted us with the selling of books, tickets, etc.
Our first job was to advise the more than 100 Catholic parishes, plus an equal number of religious institutions of the visit. They were each sent a two-page explanatory letter and the poster advertising the event. Our bishop in the diocese of Johannesburg, Bishop Reginald Orsmond, was immediately advised by me of the visit and a dossier given to him explaining Vassula's mission, in addition to a full answer by Cardinal Ratzinger.
The bishop's secretary, Fr. Finlayson immediately phoned me and acknowledged my letter, thanked me for it and gave permission for Vassula's smaller meeting with clergy and religious of all denominations to be held in one of the smaller halls at Christ the King Cathedral's "Cathedral Place" on Friday, 21st July, 2000 at 10am.
The 5000 seater Standard Bank Arena in Doornfontein, (2 kilometers from the Cathedral) was chosen by the committee as the venue for the Presentation on Saturday, 22nd July, 2000.
In addition to the notifications sent to all the parishes in the diocese of Johannesburg (Catholics are the 'backbone' of readers of "True Life in God" in the area, and indeed world-wide), we also sent letters and posters to all of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, Baptist, Greek Orthodox and Coptic parishes in the Johannesburg area. Personal letters and visits were paid by myself to the Ethiopian, Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox bishops in Johannesburg. A letter was even sent by me to His Holiness, Patriarch Petros VII of Alexandria, Egypt, after we had received a negative response from the local Greek Orthodox Archbishop Ioannes of Ioannopolis and Pretoria, in regard to Vassula's visit.
The newly appointed Anglican bishop of Johannesburg gave permission for our letter and poster to be sent to 200 Anglican destinations (parishes etc.) in his diocese.
Advertisements were placed by ourselves in the local Catholic and secular press and the media. As a result interviews with Vassula were secured with Radio 702, nationwide, on a Sunday evening phone-in program entitled "Believe it or not" in which Vassula was linked-up by 'phone in Rhodos, as well as Greek orthodox theologian priest Fr. Eugene Nicolau of New York who was with Vassula in the Holy Land in March/April when Pope John Paul II was there.
On the day of Vassula's arrival here, Thursday 20th July, after a very tiring flight from Greece, Vassula was the guest of Patricia Glyn on a nationwide radio program " Patricia's People", just before the peak hour listening-time news-bulletin of 1pm.
The two radio programs resulted in hundreds of phone calls from people throughout South Africa for days afterwards. The calls continue as I write this report. Every call has been positive, mainly from people who were 'electrified by the power of Vassula's message and who have been thirsting for words such as those given by the Lord to Vassula, 'for years', to quote the words of many.
The meeting with clergy at Cathedral Place on 21st July drew 150 people from the Catholic, Maronite, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed (Calvinist) churches.
The presentation at Standard Bank Arena on 22nd July was given to approximately 3000 people who streamed into the arena from 10 am in the morning. Taped music of beautifully recorded well-known hymns, choral compositions and meditative music, suitably majestic for the occasion filled the arena for 4 hours before Vassula's arrival at 2 p.m. Books, cassettes and videos were on sale and beautifully presented by the dedicated team of 'sellers'. Well-known hymns were strongly sung by the audience at suitable points during Vassula's powerful talk. She afterwards gave Jesus' blessing and prayed for the people while raising the crucifix given to her, which contains a relic of the True Cross and from which has emanated a fragrant holy oil on occasions.
People came from as far afield as Angola, Mozambique, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit, East London and Swaziland for both events. Both meeting were video taped and Vassula was interviewed by the National South African Television for a nation-wide Sunday evening program which will be televised in the near future. She was also interviewed by the official Catholic Radio station, "Veritas Radio" which is supported by the Catholic bishops of South Africa.
People from the Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Moslem, Hindu, Jewish and Messianic Jewish attended the Saturday presentation.
Judging from the people of such varied cultures, communities and milieux who attended or inquired regarding books, videos and the meetings, we on the committee of "True Life in God" believe that Vassula's messages from the Lord will reach a new and unexpected section of the people of the "Rainbow Nation". The many indigenous people who attended the Presentation, From Johannesburg's Soweto, who joyfully ululated Vassula's talk and punctuated the afternoon with choruses in Zulu and Sotho, as well as the many "amens" and "praise Gods" which peppered the occasion, (encouraged by Fr. Shaun von Lillienveld who was Master of Ceremonies) confirm that the Lord was truly present in that 'sanctuary' on Saturday, 22nd July.
During her talks, Vassula explained to a rapt audience how, when she addresses God the Father as dad (Abba), he told her that he received that word "in His hand, like a jewel". On unity, she also told of how she had received a vision of 3 iron bars representing the 3 major historical group of Christian Churches. The "heads needed to lower their voices and their heads and 'bend' in 'humility and love" and listen to God's voice. God does not need 'administrators' in his 'house', Vassula said. He has 'grown weary of their endless and meaningless discussions.' The New ('Second') Pentecost prayed for by Pope John XXIII is already among us: "Whoever will receive this transfiguration will receive the New Heaven and New Earth" (mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse)
On Tuesday 25th July, Vassula was invited by the Maronite Catholic Priests of Cedar Park parish, Johannesburg to be their guest. In the small chapel of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Cedars, Vassula was invited to address the congregation after Benediction and the rosary, which was led by Fr. Nadim and herself. Over a hundred people crammed into the chapel built to accommodate only 30. The shrine consists of a "ziggurat" shaped tower topped with a large, illuminated, rotating statue of Our Lady of the Cedars of Lebanon. The statue is clearly visible to motorists passing on the busy highway passing between Johannesburg and Pretoria and is a well-known landmark in the area.
After the service, parish priests Fr. Nadim and Fr. Maurice, together with visiting priests from the Lebanon entertained Vassula and the committee with typical warm Lebanese hospitality and song, much of which was sung in Aramaic, to Vassula's delight. Fr. Nadim has a beautiful trained singing voice. He was a member of the opera company in the Lebanon in former years. Fr. Shaun von Lillienveld of Protea Park and Fr. Vincent Pienaar of Craighall parish were also present.
On Thursday 27th July Vassula and members of the planning committee, together with Vassula's cousin, Ismini, who accompanied her on the visit, were given a 'tour' of the new Coptic Orthodox church in Parkview, Johannesburg. The guide was Deacon Ananlas. The parish priest, Fr. Hedra was unfortunately unable to be present.
That evening, Vassula and Ismini departed for Switzerland to a teary farewell from committee members, after this, Vassula's second visit to the republic (her first was in 1993). New seeds have been sown for Vassula's call to "True Life in God" to those people who came from as far afield as Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Mozambique, Angola, Swaziland and Namibia to hear her.
Report by John Lee of the Planning Committee