Perhaps more so in the 20th.century than at any other time in history, reports of alleged apparitions of Our Lady have flooded in from all over the world.
Places such as Cairo, (Egypt); Kibeho, (Rwanda); Akita, (Japan); Betania, (Venezuela); San Nicolas, (Argentina); and Medjugorje (Bosnia/Hercegovina) to name just a few.
After preliminary investigations, the Church then decides whether to do a full investigation of a particular event. Normally, it is the Bishop of the Diocese in which the alleged apparitions occurred, who has the privilege, the duty and the responsibility, after due study by a Commission appointed by him, to make a definitive pronouncement on the issue.
The actual words allegedly spoken by Our Lady are never "canonised" by the Church, even in approved apparitions. This is because there can often be genuine mistakes in what someone thought they heard, faulty memory afterwards, or even an unconscious element of interpretation injected into what Our Lady is supposed to have said.
Add to that the fact that she always spoke in the language of the person to whom she was speaking, and this then must be translated into other languages - which interpretation may not always be able to be made 100% accurately.
For example, at Lourdes she spoke to Bernadette in French, at Fatima she spoke to Lucia in either Portuguese or a local dialect, at Guadalupe (Mexico) she spoke to Juan Diego in the Indian language called Nahuatl. In the English speaking world, we then have these messages translated into English for us.
In the Church's examining of the facts surrounding an alleged apparition, one of the factors examined in detail is the actual words Our Lady is alleged to have spoken. If these words are determined to be words which Our Lady would NOT have spoken (for example, contradicting some part of Scripture etc) then that would be sufficient for the alleged apparition to be declared fake, a hoax, or a mistake - in any case not worthy of belief.
When the Church finally approves of an alleged apparition, or series of apparitions, in most cases after years of investigation, she (ie the Church) does so in very "soft" language. And it is not necessary that Catholics believe in those apparitions. (Though it may be imprudent for a Catholic to not believe in, say, the Fatima apparitions, it would not be a sin, or anything which would bar that person from claiming to still be Catholic)
The investigations into the apparitions at Fatima lasted 13 years, and were finally approved on 13th. October, 1930, by Joseph, Bishop of Leiria, in whose Diocese Fatima is. The main part of his letter authorising this, said simply,-
"We judge it right:
There have been some alleged apparitions which the Church has approved, some she has denied as not having a heavenly origin, and some still under investigation. There have even been some which were at first denied, and then later subjected to further investigation, and may yet be deemed to be worthy of belief.
It is up to each individual person to either believe or disbelieve, but a prudent person would do well to await the outcome of the Church's detailed investigations, and then act on their decision. It has been said that Our Lady's apparitions do not add to our "deposit of faith" (in other words to the faith which has been revealed to us by God) but in any case they were never intended to do that - Our Lady's apparitions are always a calling to mankind to live according to God's law. They are a reminder, somewhat like a marine channel of green and red navigation lights, or the reflectors on either side of the Highways in foggy areas, to show us the way to Christ, when we appear to be lost.
As such they are extremely important, and the more we know about them the easier it is for her messages to penetrate into our hearts. For that reason, you should find in these pages, details of various approved apparitions of Our Lady, the reading of which should surely draw you closer to Jesus and Mary - and that is the whole purpose of our organisation, and this website.