Pope Benedict XVI has approved the laicization of Fr. Tomislav Vlasic, a priest leading the claims that the Virgin Mary has been appearing in the Bosnian town of Medjugorje. The priest has reportedly decided to leave the priesthood and his religious order.
The action follows an investigation into concerns surrounding the alleged apparitions, the Mail Online reports.
When the apparitions allegedly began in 1981, Fr. Vlasic was named as the "creator" of the phenomenon by the local Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, Pavao Zanic.
Fr. Vlasic became the "spiritual advisor" of the six children involved in the supposed apparitions. The children now say that the Virgin Mary has visited them 40,000 times over the last 28 years.
On January 25, 2008, Fr. Vlasic was suspended by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
An inquiry was made into allegations that he exaggerated stories of the Virgin Mary's appearance, taught "dubious doctrine," manipulated consciences, engaged in "suspect mysticism" and disobeyed legitimately issued orders. He was also investigated for sexual immorality after he allegedly made a nun pregnant, the Daily Mail says.
Fr. Vlasic was sent to a monastery in Lombardy, Italy and was forbidden to communicate with anyone without the permission of his superior. He was also required to take a course of theological-spiritual formation and make a solemn profession of faith.
On Sunday it emerged that Fr. Vlasic has chosen to leave the priesthood and his religious order.
Pope Benedict approved of his laicization in March, thus removing his priestly status.
According to the Daily Mail, several of the alleged Medjugorje seers now live in wealthy conditions and own expensive cars. One seer, Ivan Dragicevic, has married a former American beauty pageant queen.
The shrine at Medjugorje has attracted an estimated 30 million pilgrims. Millions of Catholics hope the Vatican will one day legitimize the alleged apparitions.