VATICAN CITY, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- The Vatican plans to release a handbook to help Roman Catholic bishops investigate claims of heavenly visions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
The work is expected to be completed soon, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports. In addition to religious visions, it will deal with claims of stigmata or marks like those left by the crucifixion on Jesus, divine messages and weeping and bleeding statues and pictures.
Pope Benedict XVI has taken a personal interest in the project because of his concern about a huge increase in claims of visions. The church says that some of the visionaries use their claims to lure Catholics away from their bishops and into false doctrines, the newspaper reports.
The guidelines call for bishops first to order those who say they have visions to remain silent about their claims. Those who refuse would be presumed to be making false claims, the report said.
Bishops would also arrange for psychiatric examination and investigation into whether a visionaries have the education and skills to fake their claims and whether they are benefiting financially.
Those who pass the investigation would finally be examined by an exorcist to determine if their visions might be satanic rather than divine.