The Vatican drew attention today to the recent publication of hitherto unofficially published norms regarding discernment of presumed apparitions.

In a statement, it said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had recently published the norms which were originally approved by Pope Paul VI and issued by the congregation in 1978.

The Vatican said they were not officially released to the public until now because they were “principally intended as a direct aid for the pastors of the Church.” But it added that over the years the document had appeared in “various works” without the permission of the CDF.

“Since the contents of the norms are already in the public domain, the congregation believes it is now opportune to publish them,” the statement said.

The Vatican also today published a preface that accompanies the norms, written by Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the CDF, extracts of which are given below, courtesy of VIS:

"In the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God held in October 2008, the issue of the problems stemming from the experience of supernatural phenomena was raised as a pastoral concern by some bishops. Their concern was recognised by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, who inserted the issue into the larger context of the economy of salvation in a significant passage of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation 'Verbum Domini'. It is important to recall this teaching of the Pontiff".

"As the Fathers noted during the Synod, the uniqueness of Christianity is manifested in the event which is Jesus Christ, the culmination of revelation. ... He Who ‘has made God known’ is the one, definitive word given to mankind. ... The Synod pointed to the need to ‘help the faithful to distinguish the word of God from private revelations’ whose role ‘is not to complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history’. The value of private revelations is essentially different from that of the one public revelation: the latter demands faith; in it God Himself speaks to us through human words and the mediation of the living community of the Church.

"The criterion for judging the truth of a private revelation is its orientation to Christ Himself. If it leads us away from Him, then it certainly does not come from the Holy Spirit, Who guides us more deeply into the Gospel, and not away from it. Private revelation is an aid to this faith, and it demonstrates its credibility precisely because it refers back to the one public revelation. Ecclesiastical approval of a private revelation essentially means that its message contains nothing contrary to faith and morals; it is licit to make it public and the faithful are authorised to give it their prudent adhesion. A private revelation can introduce new emphases, give rise to new forms of piety, or deepen older ones. It can have a certain prophetic character and can be a valuable aid for better understanding and living the Gospel at a certain time; consequently it should not be treated lightly. It is a help which is proffered, but its use is not obligatory".

"It is my firm hope that the official publication of the 'Norms regarding the manner of proceeding in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations' can aid the pastors of the Catholic Church in their difficult task of discerning presumed apparitions, revelations, messages or, more generally, extraordinary phenomena of presumed supernatural origin".