Vatican to revisit policy on apparitions

 The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is drafting a new handbook on procedures for dealing with apparition claims, according to a report in the Independent.

Pope Benedict will update the Vatican's current rules on investigating apparitions to help distinguish between true and false claims of visions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, messages, stigmata, weeping and bleeding statues and Eucharistic miracles.

Monsignor Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, a respected Spanish Jesuit archbishop, has been placed in charge of drawing up the handbook, known as a "vademecum", which will update the current rules set in 1978.

The visionaries will then be visited by a team of psychiatrists to certify their mental health while theologians will assess the content of any heavenly messages to see if they contravene Church teachings. If the visionary is considered credible they will be questioned by one or more exorcists to discern the authenticity of their claim.

Guidelines for the approval of apparitions and revelations were last issued in 1978. They lay down that a diocesan bishop can "either on his own initiative or at the request of the faithful" choose to investigate an alleged apparition. He then submits a report to the Vatican for approval.