(1/13) Pope Benedict XVI has issued guidelines on distinguishing between real or 'demonic' visions of Mary
The Pope is declaring a 'holy war' against people who claim falsely that the Virgin Mary is appearing to them.
He will attempt to snuff out an explosion of bogus heavenly apparitions with new guidelines to help bishops root out frauds.
Benedict XVI plans to publish criteria to help them distinguish between true and false claims of visions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, messages, stigmata - the appearances of the five wounds of Christ - and weeping or bleeding statues.
In some cases exorcists will be used to determine if a credible apparition is 'divine' origin or 'demonic'.
The guidelines will be published by the Vaticanís Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Pope is said to be deeply concerned by the explosion in the number of pseudo-mystics who, claiming a direct line to God, set themselves against the bishops and lure the Catholic faithful out of the Church and into cults.
The handbook comes six years after the Pope - when he was simply Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Ė first said that the boom in such phenomena posed a risk to the unity of the Church.
The Church has been traditionally cautious in dealing with 'private revelations', in the belief that nothing new can be added to the Catholic faith.
But according to Petrus, an Italian online magazine, the Pope will now explicitly demand the 'utmost rigour' in apparitions.
When a claim of heavenly apparitions occurs, the local bishop will need to set up a commission of psychiatrists, psychologists, theologians and priests who will investigate the claims systematically.
The Pope will attempt to silence those who make bogus stigmata claims
The first step will be to impose silence on the alleged visionaries and if they refuse to obey then this will be taken as a sign that their claims are false.
The visionaries will next be visited by psychiatrists, either atheists or Catholics, to certify their mental health and to verify whether they are suffering from conditions of a hysterical or hallucinatory character or from delusions of leadership.
The third step will be to investigate the personís level of education and to determine if they have had access to material that could be used to falsely support their claims.
If the visionary is considered credible they will ultimately be questioned by one or more demonologists and exorcists to exclude the possibility that Satan is hiding behind the apparitions in order to deceive the faithful.
In the 2003, a Vatican yearbook revealed that between 1905 and 1995 there were 295 reported apparitions, only 11 of which were recognised as genuine.
It said that in many cases 'signs from heaven' were exposed as human trickery.
Among those considered to have experienced genuine private revelations are St Faustina Kowalska, the first saint of the third millennium who was said to have been visited by apparitions of Jesus in the 1930s.
The visions of the Virgin Mary by three children at Fatima, Portugal, between 1915 and 1917 have also been affirmed.