Fake Bishop Tries to Sneak into Vatican Meeting

His cassock was several inches too short, his sash was the wrong colour and, instead of a skull cap, he wore a fedora. But Ralph Napierski somehow managed to get through a Vatican checkpoint and mingle with Cardinals.

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Vincenzo Pinto / AFP / GETTY

Fake bishop Ralph Napierski (L) poses with cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana as the cardinal arrives for talks ahead of the papal conclave, March 4, 2013 at the Vatican

His cassock was several inches too short, his sash was the wrong color and, instead of a skullcap, he wore a fedora.

But Ralph Napierski, a self-appointed German “bishop” from the apparently made-up Corpus Dei order, somehow managed to get through a manned Vatican checkpoint and mingle with Cardinals as they gathered for a meeting in preparation to elect a new Pope.

He milled around the area outside the Paul VI Hall, where a meeting to determine the date of the conclave to elect the next Pope was due to take place, for around half an hour, reports USA Today. Giving his name as “Basilius” and claiming to be a member of the nonexistent “Italian Orthodox Church,” he posed for a photograph with Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana and denounced the Church’s handling of sex scandals in front of the assembled media, as AFP reports.

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Napierski was eventually identified by his unusual dress and escorted from the area by Swiss Guards, to the amusement of journalists gathered nearby, reports ANSA. It’s not clear what he intended to do had he gained access to the meeting.

Napierski is known to German church officials as a troublemaker, reports Spiegel Online.

“He does not work with any of our institutions in any way,” a spokesman for the Berlin Catholic diocese told the German newspaper Bild Zeitung, according to Spiegel Online. The spokesman said Napierski is “self-aggrandizing,” writes angry letters and preaches about sex.

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On Napierski’s websites, which feature photographs of him posing as a priest with Church officials and politicians, he claims to be adept in “revealing the ancient hidden spiritual practices.” He is a proponent of “Jesus Yoga” and claims to have invented a system that allows people to control computers with their minds.

The highly secretive conclave of Cardinals, at which a successor to the recently retired Pope Benedict XVI will be chosen, will take place in the Sistene Chapel later this month. Following Napierski’s attempted infiltration, the Vatican held discussions on improving their security procedures — which already include sweeping the Sistine Chapel for listening devices, writes USA Today.

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