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Vatican academy to investigate ‘mystical phenomena’ worldwide

USAG Italy's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) receives a tour in the Vatican’s Swiss Guard District and St. Peter’s Basilica, attends Mass in the Swiss Guard Chapel and the Papal Audience. (DVIDS)
April 20, 2023

A Vatican academy plans to investigate “mystical phenomena,” including alleged weeping statues of the Virgin Mary, ghost sightings and other supernatural reports.

The Pontifical Mariana International Academy (PAMI), a scientific institution of the Vatican, said it expects to research over 100 sightings in Italy in addition to investigations around the world.

“In Italy there are around a hundred ongoing phenomena that the Church is following closely,” Mariologist Father Gian Matteo Roggio told local media in Italy, according to the Daily Mail.

“Many of these are local and restricted in scope, not all of them receive attention from the media and the general public,” he added. 

The group’s first meeting was held on April 15 at its headquarters in Rome.

“The purpose of the Observatory is to act efficiently, to activate national and international commissions to evaluate and study apparitions and mystical phenomena reported in various areas of the world, to promote updating and training activities on these types of events and their multiple spiritual and cultural meanings,” explained Fr. Stefano Cecchin, president of the PAMI.

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In addition to studying mystical reports, the effort plans to offer outreach and consultancy help to local churches and bishops, including “transdisciplinary research activities in concert with academic institutions, both lay and ecclesiastical, and the publication of the results of the research carried out.”

The Roman Catholic Church considers supernatural activities like apparitions of the Virgin Mary to be possible but requires strict investigations that can take several years. Past recognized sites include Lourdes in France, Guadalupe in Mexico and Knock in Ireland, among others.

The new group hopes to rule out questionable sightings like the alleged weeping Mary statue in Trevignano near Rome. An Italian woman came under investigation after claiming the statue cried tears of blood, though the research found that the blood on the statue was from a pig. The woman, Gisella Cardia, reportedly garnered thousands of Euros in donations in the scheme and left the area.

The announcement also comes as interest has grown in the Catholic Church concerning requests for exorcisms. During the pandemic in 2020, two Catholic archbishops performed the rite at outdoor ceremonies, according to an Associated Press report.

One of the events took place in Portland, Oregon, where Archbishop Alexander Sample led a group of over 200 people in a city part as part of a Latin exorcism rite following months of racial justice protests in the city.