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Marian apparitions sometimes are reported to recur at the same site over an extended period of time.In the majority of Marian apparitions only one person or a few people report having witnessed the apparition.An example is the reported apparitions at Our Lady of Assiut in which many people reported a bright image atop a building.Photographs at times suggest the silhouette of a statue of the Virgin Mary but the images are subject to varying interpretations, and critics suggest that they may just be due to various visual effects.
If the bishops' conference cannot reach a conclusion, the matter is referred to the Pope, who then calls on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to either advise or conduct its own investigation.
Perrella, the local bishop usually manages the investigatory process, working with the help of a commission of experts such as theologians and medical doctors.
The investigation includes questioning of alleged visionaries and witnesses; examining the "fruits of the apparitions" such as conversions and alleged miracles and healings; and evaluating "the veracity of the facts" and "the mental, moral and spiritual wholesomeness and seriousness" of the visionary.
An authentic apparition is believed not to be a subjective experience, but a real and objective intervention of divine power.
The purpose of such apparitions is to recall and emphasize some aspect of the Christian message.