Vatican publishes rules on Virgin Mary sightings

It’s unclear if this is connected to the ongoing investigation into Medjugorje, but it’s an interesting development at the end of the month devoted to Mary.


The “Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations” have been in use since 1978, but until now had been available only in Latin, never officially published and only circulated among bishops and specialists.

The Vatican document has now been translated into English and other languages to aid bishops in the “difficult task of discerning presumed apparitions, revelations, messages or … extraordinary phenomena of presumed supernatural origin,” Cardinal William Levada, the head of the Vatican doctrinal office, wrote in a companion letter last December that was published only recently on the Vatican website.

The norms mandate that the local bishop must conduct a “serious investigation” to ascertain, with “at least great probability,” whether the Marian apparition effectively took place.

The rules also require an evaluation of the “personal qualities” of the alleged seer, including his or her “psychological equilibrium,” ‘’rectitude of moral life” and “docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority.” The contents of the “revelation” must be “immune” from theological error, and the apparition must bear “abundant… spiritual fruit,” such as conversions.

The authenticity of the vision should be rejected if, among other factors, the alleged seer shows “psychological disorder” or “evidence of a search for profit.”

In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed a high-level commission to evaluate the authenticity of the controversial Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Bosnia, which have been attracting tens of thousands of pilgrims for years despite opposition from local bishops.

The full text of the rules can be found here.


  1. It’s good to have rules and to make sure they’re disseminated widely enough so that we’re all on the same page. But it strikes me that supernatural phenomena aren’t as easily regulated as the CDF might wish. Which of the saints, let alone the seers of approved Marian apparitions, would escape suspicion of psychological disorder, especially as the world thinks? Which of those seers ever demonstrated complete “docility to Ecclesiastical Authority” (love the Germanic caps), especially when the subject of their visions urged them to confront or challenge it? And though it is important to separate the content of private revelations and their good fruits if any from the taint of a personal “search for profit,” the great pilgrimage sites of Fatima and Lourdes and Tepeyac certainly operate at a profit, which does nothing to lessen their spiritual value.

    I would be interested in seeing whether the Norms address the issue of political content in a seer’s messages, and whether that might be being manipulated by those with specific agendas. In any case, God is never easily contained, nor is the Mother of God.

  2. Diakonos09 says:

    My gut reaction is that this dissemination in the vernacular is a way to prepare the devotees of Medjuorgje for the Vatican’s decision. Interesting that “evidence of a search for profit” is brought out. I know that St. Bernadette and the seers of Fatima experienced their visions before the advent of modern technology, but still, they used to run and hide from the question seeking public. The seers of Beauraing (1932-33) and Banneux (1932) lived much of their adulthood in the era of global travel and communications yet never sought the spotlight even at anniversary celebrations at the shrines of their visions, neither did they make the tours that the Medugorje “seers” have done and do…just saying….

  3. Deacon Norb says:

    In our town, the local deacons preside at a city-wide Saturday morning Communion Service and have been doing so for over twenty years. Average audience is 30-40. The last time I was on the rotation to be the presider was on Saturday May 6. The Ordo for that day called for a “first Saturday” recognition so I wore my white stole with blue and gold plaid, our opening hymn was a Marian one — probably “Immaculate Mary.” My opening remarks recognized that it was “First Saturday of May” — a double honor to Lady Miryam of Nazareth. My homily first talked about three National Madonnas but I also talked about how the church eventually decides whether the apparitions of Our Lady are authentic or not. And I did hint that there were a number of apparitions from our era that were suspect.

    Lots of very favorable comments afterwards. I just wish I had had this Vatican text then. I might have copied it and made it available after our dismissal hymn.

  4. R. Barrera says:

    I just don’t understand why the church ” elders ” seem to try and block messages from the Virgin Mary or Jesus to the general public. The apparitions in Garabandal and Medjuorgje were followed by thousands. Conversions of non believers, cures , sightings of beautiful formations in the sky these things are pushed aside by the church while they take their time to appoint a group to make a decision on the authenticity. In a time when people are so in need of Jesus and Mary the church is busy doing something else. People have gone ahead and followed and believe and let the church takes it’s time.

  5. Kathleen says:

    We will soon enough find wether Medjuorgje is approved or not, why all the scuffle. Jesus is in all the Tabernacle in our Churches and Mary standing beside Him. Myself over the years have seen a number of red flags and prefer to wait until the final say and I have not missed a thing. obedience is called for here and we aren’t being that for sure. If the final say that it is not approved, then the faith of the people will be seen, will they leave the Church for whatever the visions say or will they say okay and move on. The dividing line may be surprising and sad. I am trusting in the Church and Magestarium set by Jesus Christ Himself. Pax Christi


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