Vatican looks closely at apparitions

Vatican looks closely at apparitions

FATIMA 1917: Public flock to site of alleged apparitions Photo credit: CC/ Illustracao Portugueza

The Vatican has issued revised guidelines on miracles, which it cagily referred to as “supernatural phenomena.”

These can range from apparitions, bleeding crucifixes and weeping statues to slices of toast with an discernible image of Christ which immediately go viral.

The new norms that come into force on May 19, coinciding with Pentecost (Whit Sunday) were issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose beginnings can be traced back to the Inquisition.

The document recommended that it was important to carefully assess “incidents of phenomena”  and ensure that they were neither fraudulent nor an attempt to make money, while avoiding errors liable to cause scandals and undermine the credibility of the Church.

Prompted by advances in communication, social media, the rise of fake news and artificial intelligence, the document’s stricter rules replace earlier guidance issued in 1978.

“The document originates from the long experience of the last century,” the Vatican News reported on May 17, citing cases where a local bishop would rapidly declare a phenomenon’s supernatural nature, only for the Holy Office to express a different decision later.

Bishops and Church officials may no longer act independently by declaring whether phenomena are supernatural or not but must consult the Vatican instead.  Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, who heads the Doctrine Office, said that this kind of recognition would be “very exceptional.”

The document nevertheless stressed that newly-introduced norms regarding “alleged supernatural phenomena” were not intended to control “or even less stifle” the spirit.

Speaking to the media on May 17, Cardinal Fernandez explained that the Church gives the faithful “the freedom to pay attention or not.”

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Written by

Linda Hall

Originally from the UK, Linda is based in Valenca and is a reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering local news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at