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A Marian apparition is an event in which the Virgin Mary is believed to have supernaturally appeared to one or more persons. They are often given names based on the town in which they were reported, or on the sobriquet which was given to Mary on the occasion of the apparition. They have been interpreted in religious terms as theophanies.

Marian apparitions sometimes are reported to recur at the same site over an extended period of time. In the majority of Marian apparitions only a few people report having witnessed the apparition. An exception to this is at Zeitoun, where thousands claimed to have seen her over a period of three years.

What is an appearance?

The term "appearance" has been used in different apparitions within a wide range of contexts and experiences. And its use has been different with respect to Marian apparitions and visions of Jesus Christ.

In some apparitions such as Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Fatima an actual vision is reported, fully resembling that of a person being present. In some of these reports the viewers (at times children) do not initially report that they saw the Virgin Mary, but that they saw "a Lady" (quite often dressed in white) and had a conversation with her. In these cases the viewers report experiences that resemble the visual and verbal interaction with a person present at the site of the apparition. In most cases, there are no clear indications as to the auditory nature of the experience, i.e. whether the viewers heard the voices via airwaves or other miraculous methods. Yet, the 1973 messages of Our Lady of Akita, which were approved at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1988 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) are due to Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa who had been totally deaf before 1973 (and remained deaf until 1982 when she was cured during Sunday Mass as foretold in her messages), suggesting means of communication beyond airwaves.

In some apparitions just an image is reported, often with no verbal interaction, and no conversation. An example is the reported apparitions at Our Lady of Assiut in which many people reported a bright image atop a building, accompanied by photographs of the image. The photographs at times suggest the silhouette of a statue of the Virgin Mary but the images are usually subject to varying interpretations, and critics suggest that they may just be due to various visual effects of unknown origin. However, such image-like appearances are hardly ever reported for visions of Jesus and Mary which in most cases involve some form of reported communication.

And apparitions should be distinguished from interior locutions in which no visual contact is claimed. In some cases of reported interior locutions such as those of Father Stefano Gobbi a large amount of text is produced, but no visual contact is claimed. Interior locutions usually do not include an auditory component, but consist of inner voices. Interior locutions are generally not classified as apparitions.

Physical contact is hardly ever reported as part of Marian apparitions, unlike in cases of interaction with Jesus Christ. In rare cases a physical artifact is reported in apparitions. A well known example is the image of Our Lady of Guadalupemarker which is reported to have been miraculously imprinted on the cloak of Saint Juan Diego.

Catholic belief

According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, the era of public revelation ended with the death of the last living Apostle. A Marian apparition, if deemed genuine by Church authority, is treated as private revelation that may emphasize some facet of the received public revelation for a specific purpose, but it can never add anything new to the deposit of faith. The Church will confirm an apparition as worthy of belief, but belief is never required by divine faith. The Holy See has officially confirmed the apparitions at Guadalupemarker, Saint-Étienne-le-Lausmarker, Paris (Rue du Bac, Miraculous Medalmarker), La Salette, Lourdes, Fátima, Portugal, Pontmainmarker, Beauraingmarker, and Banneuxmarker.

As a historical pattern, Vatican approval of apparitions seems to have followed general acceptance of a vision by well over a century in most cases. According to Father Salvatore M. Perrella of the Marianum Pontifical Institute in Rome, of the 295 reported apparitions studied by the Holy See through the centuries only 12 have been approved, the latest being in May 2008 in Laus.

An authentic apparition is believed not to be a subjective experience, but a real and objective intervention of divine power. The purpose of such apparitions is to recall and emphasize some aspect of the Christian message. The church states that cures and other miraculous events are not the purpose of Marian apparitions, but exist primarily to validate and draw attention to the message. Apparitions of Mary are held to be evidence of her continuing active presence in the life of the church, through which she "cares for the brethren of her son who still journey on earth."

Not all claims of visitations are dealt with favourably by the Roman Catholic Church. For example, claimed apparitions of Our Lady, Jesus Christ and various saints at Bayside, New Yorkmarker have not been condoned or sanctioned in any way, nor those at the Necedah Shrinemarker in Necedahmarker, Wisconsinmarker. The behavior of Ms Veronica Lueken and Mary Ann Van Hoof, who claimed these heavenly favors, was deemed not to compare favorably with the "quiet pragmatism" of St. Bernadette Soubirous — Church authorities are said to use Bernadette as a model by which to judge all who purport to have visitations. Indeed, both women seriously criticized the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, allegedly even harshly, and Mrs. Van Hoof is said to have subsequently left Roman Catholicism for an independent local Old Catholic Church.

Possibly the best-known apparition sites are Lourdes and Fatima Over sixty spontaneous healings, out of thousands reported at the Lourdes Spring, have been classified as "inexplicable" by the physicians of the Lourdes Bureau, a medical centre set up by the Church in association with local medical institutes to assess possible miracles. The Three Secrets of Fatima received a great deal of attention in the Catholic and secular press.

Criteria for evaluating apparitions

In 1978 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (former Holy Office) issued "Norms of the Congregation for Proceeding in Judging Alleged Apparitions and Revelations" containing the following provisions:
  • The diocesan bishop can initiate a process on his own initiative or at the request of the faithful to investigate the facts of an alleged apparition. The bishop may refrain from looking into it if he chooses, especially if he thinks that not much will come of the event.
  • The national conference of bishops may intervene if the local diocesan bishop refers it to him or if the event becomes important nationally or at least in more than one diocese.
  • The Apostolic See (the Vatican) can also intervene at the request of the local bishop himself, at the request of a group of the faithful, or on its own initiative.


The steps of the investigation are mandated as follows:An initial evaluation of the facts of the alleged event, based on both positive and negative criteria:
Positive Criteria
:# moral certainty (the certainty required to act morally in a situation of doubt) or at least great probability as to the existence of a private revelation at the end of a serious investigation into the case
:# evaluation of the personal qualities of the person in question (mental balance, honesty, moral life, sincerity, obedience to Church authority, willingness to practice faith in the normal way, etc.)
:# evaluation of the content of the revelations themselves (that they do not disagree with faith and morals of the Church, freedom from theological errors)
:# the revelation results in healthy devotion and spiritual fruits in people's lives (greater prayer, greater conversion of heart, works of charity that result, etc.)
Negative Criteria
:#glaring errors in regard to the facts
:#doctrinal errors attributed to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or to the Holy Spirit in how they appear
:#any pursuit of financial gain in relation to the alleged event
:#gravely immoral acts committed by the person or those associated with the person at the time of the event
:#psychological disorders or tendencies on the part of the person or persons associated


After this initial investigation, if the occurrence meets the criteria, positive and negative, an initial cautionary permission can be granted that basically states: "for the moment, there is nothing opposed to it." This permits public participation in the devotion in regard to the alleged apparition.

Ultimately, a final judgment and determination needs to be given, giving approval or condemnation of the event.

Local diocese approval

An initial assessment by the local bishop that allows the devotion to an apparition to proceed forward should not be treated as formal approval from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which may follow a few centuries later. A recent example is Our Lady of Laus which was recognized by the local diocese in 1665 and was the subject of devotions, but obtained approval from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith only in 2008.

Moreover, Marian apparitions often involve complications at the local diocese, and a letter of approval or disapproval from a local bishop, does not automatically signal approval or denial. A recent example is the apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho in the 1980s in Kibehomarker, Rwandamarker. In 1982 the teenagers who saw the visions reported truly gruesome sights and said that the Virgin Mary asked everyone to pray to prevent a terrible war. Some today regard the visions as an ominous foreshadowing of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, and particularly in that specific location in 1995, where some teenagers died a decade after their vision. The apparitions were accepted by the local bishop (accused by many of complicity in the genocide himself), but have not been given final approval by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Papal Marian apparitions



It has been claimed that apparitions were experienced by a number of popes, including Pope Leo XIII in 1884, Pope Pius XII at various stages during his papacy, and Pope John Paul II in 1981, while he recovered from an assassination attempt which occurred on May 13, the anniversary of the Fatima apparition. While he only reported focusing on her image in order to stay conscious as per paramedic instructions, a number of rumors have circulated about this event, including that he actually saw her for a minute, or that he witnessed a solar phenomenon as at Fatima; ; if so, he said nothing on the record about it. He was quoted some time later as saying he thought "a motherly hand guided the bullet's path" so that he would be only injured and not killed. After this incident, he became devoted to Our Lady of Fatima, visiting her basilica on the anniversary of the shooting, enacting her requested Consecration of Russia, and having the bullet that almost killed him set in the crown of the Pilgrim Virgin statue. John Paul II's particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was indicated in his coat of Arms (image, right), which contains a large letter "M," representing Mary at the foot of the Cross, as well as his motto "Totus Tuus," ("Totally yours"), dedicated to Mary. He also visited many of the most famous apparition sites, notably Guadalupe, Lourdes, Licheń, and Knock, and may have experienced another visitation on his last visit to Lourdes in 2004, when he lost his balance and said: 'I feel with emotion that I have reached the end of my pilgrimage'.

Apparitions and statues

Marian apparitions are sometimes reported along with weeping statues of the Virgin Mary. However, to date only one single example of a combined weeping statue and apparition (namely Our Lady of Akita) has been approved by the Vatican and the rest have usually been dismissed as hoaxes.

Weeping statues are one of the rare instances where the Church authorities and the skeptics simultaneously pursue hoaxes. The upper levels of the Vatican have been very careful in their approach and treatment of weeping statues, and generally set very high barriers for their acceptance.For instance when a statue of the popular Saint Padre Pio in Messinamarker, Sicily was found to have tears of blood one day in 2002, Church officials quickly ordered tests that showed the blood to belong to a woman and then dismissed the case as a hoax. Even at the local level, Catholic priests have expelled people who claim weeping statues with apparitions from their local Church.

In 1995, the owner of a Madonna statue that appeared to weep blood in the town of Civitavecchiamarker in Italy refused to take a DNA test and the case was dismissed as a hoax. In 2008 church custodian Vincenzo Di Costanzo went on trial in northern Italy for faking blood on a statue of the Virgin Mary when his own DNA was matched to the blood.

Impact of apparitions



While Marian apparitions may at times seem like fanciful tales told by young children of no significant education about experiences they say they had with a Lady on a mountain top which few people had ever heard of before, factual analysis indicates that the effect of apparitions on the Roman Catholic Church has been significant. Marian apparitions have led to, or affected, the Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Mariology and the lives of millions of Roman Catholics in several ways:

* The conversion of millions of people to Roman Catholicism.
* The construction of some of the largest Roman Catholic Marian churches ever.
* The formation of the largest Marian Movements and Societies ever.
* The spread of Marian devotions (such as the rosary) to millions of people.
* The declaration of specific Marian dogmas and doctrines.
* Hundreds of millions of Marian pilgrimages.


A few cases can illustrate these items.

Conversions and shrines

By all accounts, when Juan Diego, age 57, reported the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupemarker on Tepeyac hill in Mexico in 1531, he did not receive a lot of attention in Romemarker, since the Church was busy with the challenges of the Protestant Reformation of 1521 to 1579 and perhaps very few Cardinals in Rome had ever heard the details of Mexico and its environs. Yet, just as a large number of people were leaving the Catholic Church in Europe as a result of the Reformation, Our Lady of Guadalupemarker was instrumental in adding almost 8 million people to the ranks of Catholics in the Americas between 1532 and 1538. The number of Catholics in South America has grown significantly over the centuries. Eventually with tens of millions of followers, Juan Diego had an effect on Mariology in the Americas and beyond, and was eventually declared venerable in 1987. Juan Diego was declared a saint in 2002. Furthermore, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupemarker on Tepeyac hill in Mexico is now the third largest Catholic Church in the world, after Saint Peter's Basilicamarker in Rome and the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecidamarker in Brazil. Recent reported apparitions such as Medjugorjemarker have also attracted a large following.

Societies and devotions

The Marian apparition of Our Lady of Fátima on a remote mountain top to three young Portuguese children in 1917 also seemed fanciful and the local administrator initially jailed the children and threatened that he would boil them one by one in a pot of oil. However, over the years the effect of Fátima has been undeniable. With over 25 million registered Catholic members, the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fátima (which was approved by Pope Pius XII in 1947) is the largest Marian Society in the world. And the message of Fátima has inspired the spread of other devotions. An example is Our Lady's Rosary Makers formed by Brother Sylvan Mattingly in 1949 with $25 to distribute free rosaries, based on his devotion to Fátima. Our Lady's Rosary Makers has since distributed hundreds of millions of free rosaries to Catholic missions worldwide.

Mariology

Marian apparitions such as Our Lady of Lourdes (which promoted Immaculate Conception) have also influenced the direction of Roman Catholic Mariology, as illustrated by the ex cathedra exercise of Papal infallibility on the dogma of Immaculate Conception. This also illustrated that unlike most Roman Catholic theology which originates from the upper levels of the Church, Mariology has quite often been driven from the ground up by the tens of millions of Catholics with a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin. As Marian apparitions create strong emotions among large numbers of Roman Catholics, they lead to sensus fidelium. This strong response among Catholics in turn influences the higher levels of the Roman Catholic hierarchy as sensus fidei gains strength.

To this end, the official Vatican website Agenzia Fides stated in 2004 that:

"The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was defined by Pius IX not so much because of proofs in Scripture or ancient tradition, but due to a profound sensus fidelium, a century-old sense of the faithful, and the Magisterium".


The Vatican quotes in this context the encyclical Fulgens Corona, where Pius XII supported such a faith. In several Marian teachings, the "theology of the people" such as the immaculate Conception, the profound and century-old sense of the faithful has taken precedence over academic theology.

Pilgrimages

Marian apparitions are also responsible for tens of millions of Marian pilgrimages per year. About 5 million pilgrims visit Lourdesmarker every year and within France only Paris has more hotels than Lourdes. And about 10 million pilgrims visit Our Lady of Guadalupemarker each year, where each mass can accommodate up to 40,000 people. Thus each decade, just Lourdes and Guadalupe amount to over one hundred million Catholic pilgrimages, based on Marian apparitions to two people on two remote hilltops.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátimamarker also attracts a large number of Roman Catholics, and every year pilgrims fill the country road that leads to the shrine with crowds that approach one million on May 13 and October 13, the significant dates of Fatima apparitions. Overall, about four million pilgrims visit the basilica every year.

Historical feasts

A number of feasts based on historical traditions involving apparitions are celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church. These apparitions do not technically fall in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approved category, since they generally predate the formation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1542. They are recognized based on the papal declaration of the feast day rather than formal analysis by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Our Lady of the Pillar



In the year 39 AD, according to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint James the Great, in Zaragozamarker, Spain. The vision is now called Our Lady of the Pillar and is the only reported Marian apparition before her Assumption. The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillarmarker was built in Zaragoza, Spain and a key piece of Roman Catholic Marian art, the statue of Our Lady of the Pillar, refers to this apparition.

Our Lady of the Snow

Our Lady of the Snow is based on a legend that during the pontificate of Pope Liberius, during the night of August the 5th, snow fell on the summit of the Esquiline Hillmarker in Rome. And based on a vision that same night a basilica was built in honour of Our Lady, on the spot which was covered with snow.

The church built there is now the basilica of Santa Maria Maggioremarker and the feast was celebrated at that church for centuries on August 5 each year. However, there was no of mention of this alleged miracle in historical records until a few hundred years later, not even by Pope Sixtus III in his dedicatory inscription, and it may be that the legend has no historical basis. However, in the fourteenth century the feast was extended to all the churches of Rome and finally it was made a universal feast by Pope Pius V.

Our Lady of Walsingham

According to the tradition of Our Lady of Walsingham, the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision to Richeldis de Faverches, a devout Saxon noblewoman, in 1061 in Walsingham, England, instructing her to construct a shrine resembling the place of the Annunciation. The shrine passed into the care of the Canons Regular sometime between 1146 and 1174. Late in 1538, King Henry VIII’s soldiers sacked the priory at Walsingham, killed two monks and destroyed the shrine. In 1897 Pope Leo XIII re-established the restored 14th century Slipper Chapel as a Roman Catholic shrine. The Holy House had been rebuilt at the Catholic Church of the Annunciation at King's Lynn (Walsingham was part of this Catholic parish in 1897). Today there are two shrines at Walsingham: the Roman Catholic shrine centered on the Slipper Chapel and the Holy House maintained by the Church of England. There are also two separate feast days: September 24 in the Roman Catholic Church and October 15 in the Anglican Communion.

Our Lady of the Rosary

The apparition of Our Lady of the Rosary is by tradition attributed to Saint Dominic in 1208 in the church of Prouille, in France. According to the attribution, the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Dominic and introduced him to the rosary. Some sources suggest that Alan de Rupe (rather than Saint Dominic) was the major influence on the rosary in the 15th century, while other sources seek a middle ground to these two views. For centuries, Dominicans became instrumental in spreading the rosary and emphasizing the Catholic belief in the power of the rosary. In 1571 Pope Pius V instituted "Our Lady of Victory" as an annual feast to commemorate the victory of Lepantomarker, the victory being attributed to Our Lady. In 1969, Pope Paul VI changed the name of the feast to Our Lady of the Rosary.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Saint Simon Stock, who was Prior General of the Carmelite Order in the mid 13th century. The earliest reference to the tradition of his Marian apparition, dating from the late 14th century, states that "St. Simon was an Englishman, a man of great holiness and devotion, who always in his prayers asked the Virgin to favor his Order with some singular privilege. The Virgin appeared to him holding the Scapular in her hand saying, 'This is for you and yours a privilege; the one who dies in it will be saved.'" A scapular is an apron-like garment that forms part of the Carmelite religious habit, and in the original context the Blessed Virgin Mary's promise was an assurance that religious who persevered in their vocation would be saved; beginning in the latter half of the 16th century the small devotional scapular became very popular as a sacramental. The historicity of Saint Simon Stock's vision is disputed, and as a result today neither the liturgy for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (which originally had no association with scapular devotion, but began to be strongly connected with Saint Simon Stock's vision in the 17th century), nor that of Saint Simon Stock make any reference to the vision of Mary or the scapular. The Brown Scapular itself remains warmly approved and recommended by the Catholic Church.

Approved apparitions

A Roman Catholic approved Marian apparition is one that has been examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith either based on the criteria listed above (or internal procedures in place before that) and has been granted approval either through the local Bishop based on the direction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or received a direct approval from the Holy See.

Although a local bishop may provide a preliminary assessment (and allow the devotion to proceed forward), formal approval can only be provided after detailed analysis by the Holy See. For instance, although the apparitions at Our Lady of Laus were recognized by the local diocese in 1665, they received approval from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith centuries later, in 2008.

Apparitions favored by the Holy See usually:

* Become the site of major Roman Catholic Marian churches such as Lourdesmarker, France or the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupemarker on Tepeyac hill in Mexico.


* Receive papal visits such as Pope John Paul II's visits to Fatima, Portugal and Beauraingmarker, Belgium.


However, a papal visit does not amount to a formal approval. For instance, Pope John Paul II visited the basilica of Our Lady of La Vang, but no formal approval was granted.

Some apparitions such as in Assiutmarker, Egypt have been approved by the Coptic Church and can be called approved but not Roman Catholic approved.

Roman Catholic approved

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe


The 1531 apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupemarker was reported by Saint Juan Diego. He said he saw an early morning vision of the Virgin Mary in which he was instructed to build an abbey on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico. The local prelate did not believe his account and asked for a miraculous sign, which was later provided as an icon of Our Lady of Guadalupemarker permanently imprinted on the saint’s cloak where he had gathered roses. Over the years, Our Lady of Guadalupe became a symbol of the Catholic faith in Mexico.

Our Lady of Laus

The apparitions of Our Lady of Laus between 1664 and 1718 in Saint-Étienne-le-Lausmarker, Francemarker by Benoite Rencurel, a young shepherdess are the first Marian apparitions to be approved in the 21st century by the Roman Catholic Church. The apparitions were recognized by the diocese of the Roman Catholic Church on September 18, 1665. They were approved by the Vatican on May 5, 2008. Currently, the site where the apparitions took place receives more than 120,000 pilgrims a year.

Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

The vision of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medalmarker is said to have appeared to Saint Catherine Labourémarker in 1830 in the convent of Rue du Bac, Parismarker. She reported that one night in the chapel, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her and asked that a medallion be made to a design that she dictated. The lady added that, "All who wear this medal will receive great graces." After spending two years examining her claims, her priest eventually took the information to his archbishop. The medal eventually produced came to be referred to as the Miraculous Medalmarker. The front of the medal displays a picture of the virgin as she appeared to Catherine Labouré. The design on the reverse includes the letter M and a cross. Pope John Paul II used a slight variation of the reverse image as his coat of arms, the Marian Cross. This is plain cross with an M underneath the right-hand bar, to signify the Blessed Virgin standing at the foot of the Cross while Jesus was being crucified).

Sister Justine Bisqueyburu is said to have also had an apparition in 1840 within the same chapel at Rue du Bac as Saint Catherine Labourémarker. These visitations instituted the "Green Scapular" which involves a very simple devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Green Scapular, has not, however, been approved by the Holy See and does not have an associated confraternity..



Our Lady of La Salette

The apparitions of Our Lady of La Salettemarker were reported in La Salette in France in 1846 by two shepherd children, Mélanie Calvat and Maximin Giraud, followed by numerous accounts of miraculous healings. The Roman Catholic Church investigated the claims and found them to be basically credible. However, in the late nineteenth century controversy surrounded the claims of one of the seers, Mélanie Calvat in a France hostile to religion. Recent releases from the Vatican Secret Archives may have clarified the situation to some extent, but some controversy still remains attached to this apparition.

Our Lady of Lourdes

In 1858 Saint Bernadette Soubirous was a 14-year-old shepherd girl who lived near the town of Lourdesmarker in France. One day she reported a vision of a miraculous Lady who identified Herself as "the Immaculate Conception" in subsequent visions. In the second vision she was asked to return again and she had 18 visions overall. According to Saint Bernadette, the Lady held a string of Rosary beads and led Saint Bernadette to the discovery of a buried spring, also requesting that the local priests build a chapel at the site of the visions and lead holy processions there. Eventually, a number of chapels and churches were built at Lourdes as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes - which is now a major Catholic pilgrimage site. One of these churches, the Basilica of St. Pius Xmarker can accommodate 25,000 people and was dedicated by the future Pope John XXIII when he was the Papal Nuncio to France.

Our Lady of Pontmain

The apparitions at Our Lady of Pontmain, France also called Our Lady of Hope were reported in 1871 by a number of young children.

The final approval for the apparitions of Our Lady of Hope was given in 1932 by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII.

Our Lady of Fátima

The visions of the Virgin Mary appearing to three shepherd children at Our Lady of Fátima in Portugal in 1917 were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church in 1930. Four popes — Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II — have supported the Fatima messages as supernatural. Pope John Paul II was particularly attached to Fátima and credited Our Lady of Fátima with saving his life after he was shot in Rome on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fátima in May 1981. He donated the bullet that wounded him on that day to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátimamarker.

In 1925, eight years after the Fátima events, Lúcia Santos reported another set of apparitions, which became known as the Pontevedra apparitions.

Our Lady of Beauraing

The 33 apparitions of Our Lady of Beauraing were reported in Belgium between November 1932 and January 1933 by five local children ranging in age from 9 to 15 years. From 1933 to World War II, pilgrims flocked to the little village of Beauraingmarker. The final approbation for the apparition was granted on July 2, 1949 under the authority of the Holy Office by the decree of Andre-Marie Charue, Bishop of Namurmarker, Belgium. These apparitions are also known as the Virgin of the Golden Heart.

Our Lady of Banneux

The apparitions of Our Lady of Banneux were reported by a young child, Mariette Beco a native of Banneuxmarker, Belgium in the 1930s. They are also known as the Virgin of the Poor. The apparitions were approved by the Roman Catholic Church in 1949.

Beco reported eight visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary between January 15 and March 2, 1933. She reported seeing a Lady in White who declared herself to be the Virgin of the Poor and told her: "Believe in me and I will believe in you". In one vision, the Lady reportedly asked Mariette to drink from a small spring and later said that the spring was for healing. Over time the site drew pilgrims. Today, the small spring yields about 2,000 gallons of water a day with many reports of miraculous healings.

Our Lady of Akita

The apparitions of Our Lady of Akita were reported in 1973 by Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa in the remote area of Yuzawadai, near the city of Akita in Japan. For several decades, Agnes Sasagawa had encountered many health problems but her health reportedly improved after drinking water from Lourdesmarker. After going totally deaf, she went to live with the nuns in the remoteness of Yuzawadai. In 1973 she reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary, as well as stigmata and a weeping statue of the Virgin Mary which continued to weep over the next 6 years on 101 occasions. According to EWTN, in June 1988 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave definitive judgement on Our Lady of Akita events and messages as reliable and worthy of belief.

Coptic approved

Some apparitions taking place within the Coptic church have been approved, but have not been formally examined or approved by the Roman Catholic Church.

Our Lady of Zeitoun

Our Lady of Zeitoun was a mass Marian apparition that occurred in the Zeitoun district of Cairomarker, Egypt, over a period of 2–3 years beginning on April 2, 1968. It was reportedly witnessed by many thousands of people, including Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and captured by newspaper photographers and Egyptianmarker television. According to witnesses, the Virgin Mary appeared in different forms over the Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Mary at Zeitoun for a period of 2–3 years. The apparitions lasted from a few minutes up to several hours and were sometimes accompanied by dove-shaped luminous bodies. The sick and blind are said to have been cured, and many people converted to Christianity as a result. The Coptic church approved of these apparitions.

Our Lady of Assiut

The apparitions of Our Lady of Assiut were also mass apparitions in Assiutmarker, Egyptmarker during 2000 and 2001 and many thousands of witnesses produced photographs of them, which were reprinted in several newspapers. Video clips of the apparition have been posted on the internet. The reports state that during mass, pictures hung on the wall inside the altar, which show St Mary with a dove above her started to illuminate first, then the light from the dove in the pictures started to flow down. The lights thereafter appeared above the church as well and were seen by thousands of people. The coptic church approved of the apparitions.

Apparitions with mass appeal

A number of claimed apparitions sites which have yet to be fully approved continue to gather pilgrims and become the site of major Marian basilicas. The apparitions at these sites are often the subject of legends. An example is Our Lady of Walsingham where according to legend the Blessed Virgin appeared in a vision to a noblewoman in 1061 and her son built a simple wooden structure there which later became an abbey. No details of the content of vision have been preserved, but pilgrims continued to arrive at Walsingham for centuries until 1st Earl of Sussex destroyed it in 1538.

The 1490 apparition reported by Italian peasant Benedetto Pareto regarding Our Lady of Guardiamarker is somewhat similar, but has a happier ending. Pareto also reported that the Virgin Mary appeared to him and asked him to build a church atop the mountain. Pareto at first refused, saying that he was just a poor man, but he eventually built a small wooden structure which in time gathered many pilgrims. The Shrine of Our Lady of Guardiamarker is now a thriving basilica atop Mount Figogna, near Genoamarker Italy.

Some major Marian basilicas and traditions are based on legends that do not involve any specific apparitions, but sacred objects that are assumed to have been associated with apparitions. The key example is the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecidamarker in Aparecidamarker, Brazilmarker. It is the second-largest Catholic place of worship in the world, second only to St. Peter's Basilicamarker in Vatican Citymarker, and the largest Marian Church in the world, receiving over 6 million pilgrims a year. There is no specific vision or apparition associated with Our Lady of Aparecida, and it is based on a simple wooden statue of the Blessed Virgin (found by fishermen) which over the centuries drew millions of pilgrims, based on its reported healing powers. The festivals surrounding Our Lady of Chiquinquirá in Venezeula are based on a piece of wood which according to legend grew luminous with the image of the Blessed Virgin in 1709. In the case of Our Lady of Kazan, legend holds that the Blessed Virgin revealed the location of the precious icon to a 10 year old girl in 1579.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Healthmarker in Tamil Nadumarker in southern India does however have a legend that involves a number of apparitions. There is no historical record of the apparition of Our Lady of Good Health but the oral tradition suggests that there was an apparition to a Hindu boy in mid sixteenth century and later Portuguese sailors were saved by another apparition. Similarly, the legend Our Lady of La Vang is based on an apparition to a group of Vietnamese Catholics in the rain forest in 1798, and the site of a basilica.

Although both She Shan Basilicamarker in Shanghai, China and Our Lady of China in Donglu, near Beijing, were popular pilgrimage sites at one time, with the arrest and imprisonment of the Catholic bishops in the 1950s by the communists and with the establishment of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association against the Vatican, these pilgrimages have slowed down.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lichenmarker, the largest church in Poland (and the 11th largest in the world) is based on legends on the Virgin Mary appearing to different people in the Lichen area in the early 19th century. The Basilica of Our Lady of Knockmarker in Ireland is based on a reported appearance of the Virgin Mary along with Jesus Christ and other saints in Ireland in 1879.The Basilica of our Our Lady of Siluva in Siluvamarker, Lithuaniamarker is also based on a legand of an apparition to four children in 1608, and houses a famous painting (perhaps based on Salus Populi Romani) called Our Lady of Siluva, usually considered Lithuania's greatest treasure.

Among recent visions, the reported apparitions of The Virgin Mary to six children in Međugorjemarker in 1981 have received the widest amount of attention. The Our Lady of Međugorje messages are published and distributed worldwide and often emphasize five key elements: Daily prayer of the Holy Rosary, Fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, Daily reading of the Bible, Monthly Confessions and Holy Communion. The Međugorjemarker messages have a very strong following among Catholics worldwide. The Holy See has never officially either approved or disapproved of the messages of Međugorje, although both critical and supportive documents about the messages have been published by various Catholic figures.

Notable but unapproved apparitions

A list of some of the notable reports of Marian apparitions is provided below. The apparitions in the table below do not have approval, and only those apparitions listed and explained in the sections above have received either Roman Catholic or Coptic approval, and the others shown in the table here are simply based on legend, reports of individuals or are still awaiting approval. There are hundreds of other reported apparitions around the world without major references or church investigations and they can not be included in this section, due to their lack of notability.

As a general pattern, in most cases, formal Vatican approval for apparitions usually requires at least a century, even if the local diocese issues a preliminary letter permitting devotions. For instance, Our Lady of Laus was recognized by the local bishop in 1665 but was only granted approval by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008. As current examples, Our Lady of Kibeho have received recognition from the local diocese, but there has been no formal approval from the Holy See. However, the 1973 apparitions of Our Lady of Akita were approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1988, with a faster pace than usual.

The apparitions reported between 1945 and 1959 by Ida Peerdeman in Amsterdammarker as The Lady of all Nations include a short prayer called the Amsterdam Blessing. In May 2002, Bishop Jozef Marianus Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam issued a letter that declared this apparition as having a supernatural origin. However, this apparition has not been officially approved by the Holy See, and has approval only at the local bishop level.

The reported apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho in 1982 included exceptionally long and dramatic visions lasting eight hours. According to the teenage visionaries, in 1982 the Virgin Mary asked everyone to pray to prevent a terrible war. A war and genocide eventually took place at the same location in 1995 and claimed the lives of some of visionaries. The apparitions were accepted by the local Roman Catholic bishop, Bishop Misago, but have not been given final approval by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The bishop himself went on trial for nine months on charges of involvement in the genocide but was not convicted.

The reported Garabandal apparitions from 1961 to 1965 were examined by the local Bishop and were declared as not having evidence of being of supernatural origin. However the apparitions were not declared as a hoax and the possibility of future approval was left open. At Garabandal, an apparition by Saint Michael, the Archangel was reported first, announcing the arrival of the Virgin Mary.

The reported apparitions of Our Lady of America in 1956 in Rome City, IN did receive a positive response from the local bishop and have been Canonically-approved by several Archbishops and Bishops, but no decision has been rendered with regard to the supernatural origin and characters of the reported apparitions. Pilgrims arrive daily to pray and offer their devotion in the Our Lady Mother of Mercy Chapel which sits on the grounds of what is now called Sylvan Springs.

The fact that pilgrims continue arriving at a reported apparition site and the fact that church figures a continent away may be sympathetic towards the apparition does not mean that approval has been obtained. For instance, although the Village of Pellevoisinmarker in France does receive pilgrims, and there is a small shrine of Our Lady of Pellevoisin in St. Paul's church in New York, according to the University of Dayton Marian Library, archbishops of Bourgesmarker have never pronounced on the subject of Pellevoisin and have been very reserved on the topic. However, various independent (and colorful) lists of apparitions websites declare Pellevoisin as approved, with no clear reference for the approval.

Some reported apparitions attract negative publicity at the location of the apparition. For instance, the latter parts of the reported messages from Gianna Talone were disapproved by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore and a group of Emmitsburg, Marylandmarker residents started a campaign against Talone and accused her of running a cult. To date, the Holy See has let the Talone matter rest at the local level of the archdiocese.

Not all reports of visions and apparitions can be taken seriously, even if they sound truly pious. For instance, the messages reported byCatalina Rivas were later found to correspond to exact pages of books written by others, and published instructional literature for Catholic seminarians. And reported messages from Veronica Lueken as Our Lady of Bayside were declared invalid by Bishop Francis Mugavero, then Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. Similarly, reports of Our Lady of Surbiton claiming that the Virgin Mary appeared every day under a pine tree in England were flatly rejected by the Vatican as a fraud.

Several apparition related sites on the internet exist, often with detailed messages that sound pious, accompanied by testimonies from local witnesses, and even local priests and bishops. However, these representations do not always amount to authenticity or Vatican approval. An example is the website for the apparitions of Our Lady of the Eucharist in Romemarker since the year 2000. The website for Our Lady of the Eucharist includes a clear letter and a photo from Bishop Claudio Gatti who approved the apparition. Yet a more detailed search of the same website produces a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reducing the said Bishop to lay rank following a series of meetings at the Vatican on this and other matters (e.g. the Bishop's position of marriage for priests). The Bishop now uses the title ordained by God rather than Catholic Bishop.

Unapproved apparitions by Schismatic and Independent Catholic Churches

Some purported Marian apparitions initiated events which led to schism of Catholics forming their own independent churches as a result of Rome's disapproval of them. Notable examples include the revelations of Feliksa Kozłowska between 1893 and 1918 which led to the founding of the Mariavite and the Old Catholic Mariavite churches. Others include the Palmarian Catholic Church which began after a series of purported apparitions in Palmar de Troyamarker, while Fraternite Notre Dame, a Traditionalist Catholic church traces its origins to apparitions that were reported in Frechoumarker, Francemarker, and is led by Bishop Jean Marie Kozik who was consecrated by Vietnamesemarker Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc.

Criticism

Some Protestant Christians and non-Christians regard claims of Marian apparitions as being hallucinations encouraged by superstition, and occasionally simply as deliberate hoaxes to attract attention. Many such apparitions are reported in economically depressed areas, attracting many pilgrims who bring trade and money into the region. For instance, some sources dispute the very existence of Saint Juan Diego.

Some spontaneous healings reported at apparition sites such as Lourdesmarker are also disputed by some scientists . Other scientists have claimed that a handful of unexplained cures have occurred; the Lourdes Medical Bureau has recorded sixty "inexplicable" healings which match its requirements. Critics maintain that some other healings are incomplete, leaving the sufferer with disabilities or chronic illness, and that other claimed healings are likely to be the relatively rare but unmiraculous spontaneous remission of illness or injury. Such remissions might be expected to occur in a few of the large numbers of ill (and perhaps credulous) people who visit such sites. That viewpoint is debated by religious people and by some in the medical profession. The Lourdes Medical Bureau will not review cases of claimed healing involving illnesses known sometimes to go into remission by themselves, or incomplete healings, or those which take place gradually.

Further reading





See also



References

External links



Gallery of apparition-based Marian churches

Marian apparitions, and sacred objects related to them, have lead to the construction of some of the largest Roman Catholic Marian churches.

Image:Piazza Esquilino, Santa Maria Maggiore.JPG|Santa Maria Maggioremarker, Romemarker, 5th centuryImage:Basilica_del_Pilar_ZaragozaAragon%28Spain%29.jpg|Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillarmarker Zaragozamarker Spain, 1681Image:Nostra signora della guardia2.jpg|Nostra Signora della Guardiamarker, Genoamarker, 1889Image:Sanctuary NDL 2.jpg|Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, 1864Image:Sanctuary_NDL_3.jpg|Rosary Basilicamarker in Lourdesmarker, 1902Image:Fatima.jpg|Our Lady of Fatima Basilicamarker, Fátima, PortugalmarkerImage:Vailankanni Basilica.JPG|Basilica of Our Lady of Good Healthmarker, Vailankannimarker, IndiaImage:Knockbasilica.JPG|Basilica of Our Lady of Knock, IrelandImage:Church in Međugorje, B-H, June 4th 2007 (4).jpg|Our Lady of Međugorje, MeđugorjemarkerImage:Santuario nacional.jpg| Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecidamarker, Aparecidamarker, Brazilmarker, 1955Image:Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (new).JPG|Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupemarker, Mexicomarker 1974Image:Stary Lichen.jpg|Sanctuary of Our Lady of Licheńmarker, Stary Licheńmarker, Poland, 2004


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