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In Messori’s ‘The Ratzinger Report’

How Ratzinger differentiated between the supernatural and spiritual fruits

17 May 2024

“One of our criteria is to separate the aspect of the true or presumed ‘supernaturality’ of the apparition from that of its spiritual fruits”. With these words, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responded to a question put to him by journalist and writer Vittorio Messori. The dialogue is reported in the 1985 book, “The Ratzinger Report”.

First of all, the future Benedict XVI stated: “No apparition is indispensable to the faith; Revelation terminated with Jesus Christ. He himself is the Revelation. But we certainly cannot prevent God from speaking to our time through simple persons and also through extraordinary signs that point to the insufficiency of the cultures stamped by rationalism and positivism that dominate us. The apparitions that the Church has officially approved ... have their own precise place in the development of the life of the Church in the last century. They show, among other things, that Revelation — still unique, concluded, and therefore unsurpassable — is not yet a dead thing but something alive and vital. Moreover ... one of the signs of our times is that reports of ‘Marian apparitions’ are multiplying all over the world...”.

And then he continued: “ One of our criteria is to separate the aspect of true or presumed ‘supernaturality’ of the apparition from that of its spiritual fruits. The pilgrimages of ancient Christianity were often concentrated on places with respect to which our modern critical spirit would be horrified as to the ‘scientific truth’ of the tradition bound up with them. This does not detract from the fact that those pilgrimages were fruitful, beneficial, important for the life of the Christian people. The problem is not so much that of modern hypercriticism (which ends up later, moreover, in a form of new credulity), but it is that of the evaluation of the vitality and of the orthodoxy of the religious life that is developing around these places”.