Vatican City St. Paul
© iStockA statue of St. Paul the Apostle sits outside St Peter's Basilica in the Piazza San Pietro in Vatican City. Apparitions are appearances or communication with divine beings such as saints, angels or Christ himself.
The Vatican is preparing to release a document giving guidance on how to discern supernatural phenomena.

The Holy See Press Office announced the upcoming document will be published May 17 with a live-streamed press conference featuring Prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández.

Fernández has previously said the dicastery is "in the process of finalizing a new text with clear guidelines and norms for the discernment of apparitions and other phenomena," according to the National Catholic Register.

An "apparition" refers to an instance in which a divine entity — such as a saint, the Virgin Mary, or Christ himself — makes itself known to a person on Earth. The concept is a recurring theme in the Bible and most Christian denominations affirm the belief that such brushes with the supernatural can still occur today in various capacities.

The Catholic Church urges "extreme prudence" before ascribing phenomena to a supernatural force, warning that being too quick to attribute divine origin to explainable occurrences can damage the faith and warp belief.

Alleged apparitions are usually documented and scrutinized by the diocesan bishop's office and then forwarded to Rome for further investigation.
Prefect Víctor Manuel Fernández Vatican
© Franco Origlia/GettyPrefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Víctor Manuel Fernández poses at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.
The last time the Vatican doctrinal office released guidance on apparitions was in 1978 under Pope Paul VI. That document, "Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceedings in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations," was released due to the increased influence of mass media.

The Miracle of Fátima in 1917 is perhaps the most well-documented apparition in the modern day. After an alleged series of appearances by the Virgin Mary to several peasant children that promised a public miracle, tens of thousands of people in Fátima, Portugal claimed to witness the sun move erratically across the sky and produce radiant colors for several minutes.

The Catholic Church recognized the "supernatural" aspect of the event in 1930. Pope Pius XII formally approved the Fátima apparitions a decade later.
© Bert Hardy/Picture Post/GettyIn this 1952 photo, pilgrims make their way to Fatima in Portugal, to see the site where The Virgin Mary was said to have appeared in 1917.
Last month, the Vatican released a document providing guidance on the place of "human dignity" in the modern age.

The document denounced gender theory, gender transitions, and surrogate pregnancies as violating basic moral precepts.