ROME – On Friday Argentine Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández presented a new set of norms for evaluating the authenticity of Marian apparitions and other spiritual phenomena, saying a ruling on the famed occurrences in Medjugorje is still in the works.

Speaking to journalists during the May 17 presentation of the new norms, which stipulate that the Vatican will no longer deem apparitions or other similar spiritual events as ‘supernatural’ in nature, Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), said of Medjugorje, “we’ll see.”

“I haven’t read the material in the dicastery. I know some details, but we must study to arrive at a conclusion with these new norms,” he said.

Among other things, the new norms state that instead of ruling on the supernatural nature of apparitions or other similar phenomena, the DDF will now issue one of six possible rulings, the most positive being a declaration of Nihil obstat, or, “nothing stands in the way” of encouraging devotion.

RELATED: In new vetting process for apparitions, Vatican nixes ‘supernatural’ label

They also include other rulings such as Prae oculis habeatur, “it should be kept in mind,” to be given in cases in which “positive signs are recognized” surrounding an alleged spiritual event, as well as “some aspects of confusion or potential risks.”

In this regard, Fernández reference to Medjugorje urged faithful to “Keep in mind that a phenomenon can be considered good, not dangerous at its origin, but it can have some problems in the later development.”

“If we suppose there was a Nihil Obstat, at the same time, perhaps, some details must be clarified, they must not be taken seriously,” he said, noting that in the alleged ongoing visions from so-called “seers,” the Virgin Mary has stipulated the time and place she will send a message, or “seers” have claimed to receive messages on stage during talks.

These are things “that must be clarified,” Fernández said.

Long a point of discussion and debate in Catholic circles, the alleged Medjugorje apparitions began in June 1981, and are often divided into two categories: the “originals” which took place from June 24-July 3 of that year when the Virgin is believed to have appeared daily to six young people aged between 10 and 17 at the time, and subsequent apparitions some of the original seers claimed to have, at times daily, since 1989.

While the original set of alleged apparitions all occurred in the same place, seers who claim to still receive messages from the Virgin Mary have said they see her at random times and places.

In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI formed a commission to study the alleged apparitions led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who at the time was retired as the pope’s Vicar of Rome. He had also served as president of the Italian bishops’ conference.

The commission submitted its report, called the “Ruini report,” to Francis in 2014.

Francis has previously voiced his own personal skepticism regarding the alleged ongoing apparitions, telling journalists on his way back to Rome May 13, 2017, after a two-day visit to Fatima, Portugal, where one of the largest Marian shrines in the world is located, that the original Medjugorje apparitions need to be distinguished from the ongoing appearances.

“About the first apparitions, when (the ‘seers’) were young, the report more or less says that the investigation needs to continue,” he said, saying the Ruini report “expresses doubts” on the ongoing apparitions.

“Personally, I am more ‘mischievous.’ I prefer Our Lady to be a mother, our mother, and not a telegraph operator who sends out a message every day at a certain time – this is not the mother of Jesus.”

Francis in 2017 named Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser to study the pastoral care given to the town’s residents and visiting pilgrims, with the Vatican emphasizing that his role had nothing to do with determining the authenticity of the apparitions.

In May 2018, Hoser was sent as “Apostolic Visitor” for an undetermined time to the Saint James parish in Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, run by the Franciscan friars.

Francis in May 2020 ruled that pilgrimages to Medjugorje were permissible, but the Vatican said in a statement at the time that studies into the authenticity of the alleged apparitions were still ongoing, and that the pope’s move should not be interpreted “as an authentication of the noted happenings, which still require an examination by the Church.”

“It must therefore be avoided that these pilgrimages create confusion or ambiguity under the doctrinal aspect,” the statement said, saying this also applies to parish priests who intend to visit the site to celebrate Mass.

During Friday’s press conference, Fernández also voiced a word of caution surrounding the visionaries in alleged apparitions themselves, saying there is often a tendency, when an apparition is deemed supernatural, to request sainthood for the person.

This, he said, is “another reason” the Vatican has opted out of issuing a ruling on supernaturality.

Alleged visionaries “are weak like everyone,” he said, and drew a distinction between different kinds of grace faithful can receive, jesting that a sinner can be used by God for something good and still “do cazzate,” which is an off-color Italian term for doing foolish things.

With the new norms, Fernández said, “we expect it will be faster to move forward toward a conclusion” on the Medjugorje apparitions.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on X: @eliseannallen