On May 17, 2024, the Vatican released new guidelines aimed at providing clearer and more efficient processes for discerning alleged supernatural phenomena.

Signed by Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the 15-page document outlines procedures for bishops to follow in examining mystical events in their dioceses.

The new norms, which take effect on May 19, 2024, replace the guidelines established in 1978 under Pope Paul VI. Cardinal Fernández said that the previous norms often left the faithful confused and bishops without clear orientation, as ecclesial discernment often came too late. He emphasized that the new rules aim to “avoid fueling a sensationalistic climate” and ensure that the discernment process is more transparent and timely.

A significant change in the new guidelines is the Vatican’s role in validating bishops’ opinions on alleged apparitions. Bishops are now required to submit their judgments to the Dicastery for final approval. Cardinal Fernández said that “the Church has stated that the faithful are never forced to believe in this phenomenon” and stressed the importance of maintaining caution and prudence in the discernment process.

The document lists six possible conclusions that can be reached, ranging from a “Nihil obstat” to a declaration of “not supernatural.”

The new norms also emphasize the need for thorough investigations, including the establishment of investigatory commissions with experts in theology, canon law, and other relevant fields.

Photo credit: adao_joao / Shutterstock.com
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