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Vatican drafts guidelines to combat new boom in fraudulent revelations

 

Simon Caldwell

 

Catholic Herald of 17 Jan 2003

 

THE VATICAN is planning to warn Catholics of the dangers of believing in bogus claims of heavenly apparitions in the wake of an explosion of so-called private revelations around the world.
 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is to publish up-to-date criteria to help Catholics to distinguish between true and false claims of visions, messages, stigmata, weeping statues and Eucharistic miracles. It said the boom in such phenomena posed a risk to the unity of the Church and warranted an "exemplary pastoral response" from the Holy See.
 

The document, due early this year, was announced in the latest edition of Attivita della Santa Sede, a Vatican year book. The CDF hopes new guidance will clarify the meaning of "apparitions, messages, and extraordinary events in general, in keeping with the teaching of the faith and ... the practical criteria which could bring about a resolution".
 

It said that between 1905 and 1995 there were 295 reported "apparitions", only 11 of which were recognized as genuine. It said that in many cases false seers had been unmasked, pecuniary transactions discovered, and "signs from heaven" exposed as human trickery.
 

"Sometimes there is a long and worrying tension between the faithful who believe in the 'apparitions' and the local bishop who is unwilling to give official recognition to them," said the CDF. "This enduring tension is a danger to the unity of the local Church."
 

The announcement was welcomed by officials in the Diocese of Mostar, in the former Yugoslavia, where consecutive bishops have opposed claims of Marian apparitions in Medjugorje. In a statement, Mgr Luka Pavlovic, Mostar vicar general, said the new directions would help Catholics to avoid exposing their faith and the faith of others to danger.
 

"Threats to the unity of the local Church are particularly pronounced in Medjugorje where the 'apparitions' have from the very beginning been bound up with the solution to the 'case of Herzegovina', which is characterised by disobedience to the Pope and the decisions of the Holy See," he said.
 

"In the '80s, some seers put pressure upon Bishop Zanic [of Mostar}, both verbally and in writing, to recognise the 'apparitions', threatening him with heavenly judgment. If he failed to recognise them, Our Lady's judgment and that of her Son would be waiting for him. The more often he received these threats from the 'seers', the more convinced the bishop became that it was a question of false apparitions."
 

Among those considered to have experienced genuine private revelations in recent years are St. Faustina Kowalska, the first saint of the new millennium and a Polish nun who received the devotion of Divine Mercy from Our Lord in the 1930s. The visions of the three children at Fatima between 1915 and 1917 have also been affirmed.
 

Pope Pius XII was said to have been visited by Jesus and Mary during the Second World War, and the private letters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta have shown that she began her ministry to India's poor after she received interior messages from Our Lord in 1947.
 

However, the majority of claims are rejected by the Church, among them the recent apocalyptic prophecies of Vassula Ryden, Stephano Gobbi and the Marian 'seers' of Garabandal northern Spain.
 

In England, claims by Patricia de Menezes that Our Lady has been appearing in Surbiton, Surrey, since 1966, were rejected by Archbishop Michael Bowen of Southwark, who as local ordinary ruled in his capacity as the competent ecclesiastical authority.
 

 

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