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Vatican Issues New Norms to Rein in Supernatural Phenomena

Speaking at a press conference presenting the new guidelines on Friday, the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, recounted cases where he had to decide on supernatural claims. One woman once said she felt at home at a Marian shrine, and only later the cardinal learned that it was because she thought she was the Virgin Mary herself. Another woman claimed she was told by God that she would become the mother of the new Messiah, and Fernandez said he was shocked when the woman said he had to be the father.

“These events are quite frequent in certain cases, but it’s often a situation where norms and procedures are not necessary,” he said. “In other cases there may be a phenomena that does not stop and attract the attention of many people,” he added.

Social media has also impacted the Vatican’s evaluation of unexplained phenomena, since strange events are quickly ascribed to the supernatural and can gather a wide following. “Now more than ever, these phenomena involve many people from various dioceses and spread rapidly across different regions and even countries,” the statement read. The Vatican doctrinal office encouraged bishops to create interdiocesan commissions to address cases that spread over various church territories.

Pope Francis has displayed a strong personal devotion to the Virgin Mary and often visited the shrines where she is said to have miraculously appeared, but he has also warned faithful not to be fooled by far-fetched stories and tales of miracles. Such apparitions “are not always real,” he said in an interview in June last year.

This article originally appeared here.