Speaking at Mass in remarks broadcast nationally on France-2 television, Monsignor Jean-Michel di Falco Leandri said he recognized the “supernatural origin” of the apparitions to 17-year-old Benoite Rencurel from 1664 to 1718.
The bishop, in an interview on France-Info radio, said the decision meant the church “has committed itself in an official way to say to pilgrims ‘you can come here in total confidence.'” The recognition process involved a panel of experts including two theologians and an investigating judge, he said.
Officials at Notre-Dame-du-Laus church say that after four months of daily apparitions starting in May 1664, the Virgin Mary asked Rencurel to build a church and a house to receive priests.
The sanctuary, which was founded by Rencurel, today welcomes some 120,000 pilgrims a year — at times providing healing oils based on a method that the Virgin Mary was said to pass on to the shepherd girl, the officials said.
The recognition Sunday makes Laus an official pilgrimage site for the church — on a par with Lourdes, a site where Roman Catholic tradition holds that the Virgin Mary appeared before 14-year-old girl Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.
Thousands of people who have since prayed and bathed at a spring in Lourdes said they have been healed.