The Vatican has created a new observatory that will study and attempt to validate alleged mysterious “apparitions” and other phenomena of the Virgin Mary, so that they can be authenticated by the Catholic Church.
Created by the Pontifical Marian Academy Internationalis (PAMI), the new “observatory” will study mythical Marian phenomena like Virgin Mary statues weeping tears, in the pursuit of “concrete evidence” to support their existence.
The work aims "to provide concrete support to the study, authentication and correct disclosure of such events, always in harmony with church teaching, relevant authorities and applicable norms of the Holy See," said Franciscan Father Stefano Cecchin, president of the Marian academy, reports the National Catholic Reporter.
The observatory will host people from a variety of different backgrounds, including even a lawyer, to understand the legalities of any cases where criminal manipulation or fraud could be occurring, according to the Church.
"It is important to provide clarity because often presumed messages generate confusion, spread anxiety-inducing apocalyptic scenarios or even accusations against the pope and the Church," Father Cecchin said in a press release.
A Marian apparition is an apparition that supposedly takes the shape of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus in the Christian faith. There have been many reported sightings, with some officially “authenticated” by the Church and deemed “worthy of belief”, and others remaining not. It is the latter that the new observatory will attempt to focus on.
There have been seven sightings across history that have been approved by the Holy See, and a further 14 have been approved by a local ordinary. Few of these “sightings” have occurred in modern times, with the last sighting approved by the Holy See occurring in 1984, in which 150 people in Venezuela supposedly saw the ghostly embodiment of the Virgin Mary.
As for the evidence used to approve such sightings, there isn’t really any. Most of the sightings involve many people, but this has happened regularly across history and certainly does not point to authenticity. Seeing Jesus in a piece of toast is a classic example of pareidolia, after all.
This observatory will attempt to separate what the Church claims is a true sighting from a supposed hoax, which apparently happens regularly. Most recently, a woman named Maria Giuseppe Scarpulla, but known to her followers as Gisella Cardia, claimed to receive messages from Mary every month. An investigation is currently underway after she fled Italy after a private investigator triggered a judicial investigation against her for “abuse of public credulity" when her claims that a Virgin Mary statue wept blood turned out to be pig's blood.