Fake bishop busted and booted from Vatican
Ralph Napierski, left, sidles up, shakes hands and smiles with Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana -- before getting the Vatican boot.
March 5th, 2013
01:57 PM ET

Fake bishop busted and booted from Vatican

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Move over, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the Virginia ex-couple who famously – or infamously – crashed President Obama’s first White House state dinner. There’s a new impostor posing with dignitaries, and he set his sights on an even more coveted gathering.

Meet Ralph Napierski, a German self-declared bishop who reportedly called himself “Basilius,” said he was with the nonexistent “Italian Orthodox Church” and set out to infiltrate a Monday meeting of cardinals at the Vatican.

The fake bishop donned a purple sash (really a scarf) over his vestments and mingled with cardinals and others who’d flown in from around the globe ahead of the conclave to pick a new pope. He smiled wide and posed for cameras while shaking hands with Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana. He tried to blend in.

But before he could get into Paul VI Hall for a top-secret meeting, the Telegraph reported, Napierski was nabbed and booted by Swiss Guards. Seems the disguise, which was a little off, gave him away. The cassock was too short, the crucifix around his neck a bit different, the purple scarf conspicuous against all the red. The fedora on his head, against all the skullcaps, probably didn’t help.

Napierski, who disputes the media reports, apparently runs several websites, including one dedicated to Jesus Yoga. In a rambling blog called Corpus Dei, which he describes as a “Catholic order after episcopal law,” he writes that he is “a slave and apostle like St. Paul” and “is fighting the Heresy and false movements inside the Roman Catholic Church.”

He also claims to be an “internet hacker and activist” and an inventor who came up with “a system to enable persons to control computers with the Power of thoughts.”

What he was thinking on Monday at the Vatican is unknown. But the International Business Times said he told reporters “that he believed Catholic bishops were wrong to move priests who had been accused of sexual abuses around various parishes, prompting the Daily Mail to describe him as a ‘child abuse protester.’ ”

CNN reached out to Napierski on Tuesday, hoping to hear his side of the story. In an e-mail response he sent late in the day, he provided a link to a blog entry in which he denied what had been reported. He titled the entry, " 'Conclavebuster' Bishop Ralph Napierski and The Vatican Scandal that never happened - Truth revealed!"

He claimed that he was simply there in his capacity as a Catholic bishop and visited, with three of his priests, to announce the creation of the Congregation of Our Lady of Refuge, which he said he founded. He had a "wonderful small talk" with the cardinal he was photographed with, he wrote, adding that he even returned to the Vatican Monday night - after seeing the media reports - to get confirmation that he hadn't been kicked out.

German press, however, said Napierski cannot be trusted.

Spiegel Online reported on Tuesday that Napierski is "known among German clerics as something of a troublemaker." He has a history of "posing as a priest with church officials and politicians, and he also made an appearance at Berlin's Venus erotica trade fair."

"He does not work with any of our institutions in any way," Berlin Catholic diocese spokesman Matthias Kopp told Bild Zeitung, a German daily tabloid, according to Spiegel Online. "Napierski is 'self-aggrandizing,' frequently pens angry letters, and preaches about sex, the paper reports. ... Kopp told the paper that his behavior was 'unacceptable.' "

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Catholic Church • Vatican

soundoff (203 Responses)
  1. JIm

    Aren't they all just faking that they have some relationship with God. Their real intention is world domination masked by a book written millenia ago. As people have grown intellectually and become less gullible the stranglehold the Catholic church has on the world has loosened.

    March 5, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • AB

      The The

      March 5, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  2. AB

    My favorite people in no particural order. Join in!

    1. Bjork
    Carl Sagan
    Coleman Hawkins
    2. Frank Zappa
    3. Magic Johnson
    4. Chloë Grace Moretz
    Coleman Hawkins
    5. Dr. Martin Luther Kng
    6. Billy Joe Armstrong

    6. Buddy Rich
    Alice Cooper
    Dan Marino
    Al Franken
    Jim Rome
    Larry Czonka
    Amy Smart
    Dan Akroid
    Albert Einstein
    Abraham Lincoln
    Dave Weckle

    Just a few of the to of my head.

    March 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • AB

      I just thoght it might be fun to celebrate actual cool people intead of fictitious people.

      March 5, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • midwest rail

      I second John Prine, and would add Roy Orbison.

      March 5, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • JIm

      Fozzy Bear, Jean Claude Van Dam, Pippy Longstocking, Bart Simpson and Anderson Cooper

      March 5, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • AB

      Father Guido Sarducci

      March 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Johnny Cash
      Douglas Adams
      Kurt Vonnegut
      Edwin Hubble
      Gary Oldman
      Ron Clark

      March 5, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Douglas Adams
      David Gilmour
      Paul Erdos

      March 5, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • AB

      My sister
      Park Rangers
      Louie Bellso
      father guido sarducc
      Jason Kay

      March 5, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • AB


      March 5, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Science


      March 5, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • AB

      Pat Metheny
      Jaco Pastorious
      Janis Jopln
      Dolly Parton
      The Clash
      Noroh Jones
      Gene Crupa
      Chuch Mangione

      March 5, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • AB

      Chalie Parker

      March 5, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  3. Godot001

    The cardinals should definitely elect him – he could be "pope preposterous I".

    March 5, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  4. Greenspam

    Impersonating a Cardinal makes you a criminal. Impersonating God makes you the Pope.

    March 5, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      It makes you Pope and extremely rich. Not to mention all the chior boys you can choke down.

      March 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Al

      Good one!

      March 5, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • ki_oku

      You seem to have just cracked the DaVinci code.

      March 5, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • longfoot

      Does he choke down the choir boys or is it the other way around?

      March 5, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Ca Ed

      longfoot –
      I would guess that when you are Pope, you get to say how, when, where, and how often.

      March 5, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
  5. DC

    At least he isn't a known pedophile or enabler of one – like most of the Catholic church hierarchy.

    March 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  6. Alex Povolotski

    C'mon! He was just having fun!

    March 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • David

      I thought the same thing Alex, he seems to be having a blast.

      March 5, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  7. jj

    Father Guido Sarducci

    March 5, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  8. Sara Howells


    March 5, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  9. Baalzabarber

    I don't see the problem. He's no less qualified than the rest of those Magicians showing up there. he managed to get in, thats THEIR problem, not his. They are not much more than a very large college frat

    March 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • baalzebun

      Well he didn't manage to get in, he got booted.. boo hooted

      March 5, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  10. ME II

    Borat, Bruno, Basilius?

    March 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  11. kevobx

    Why are you listening and sitting in the churches? For the fellowship of lies & evil. My people come out of her. *Isaiah 45:20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. *Jeremiah 11:15 What hath my beloved to do in mine house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many, and the holy flesh is passed from thee? when thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest. *2nd Peter 3:8 But, beloved be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. *Psalm 90:4-5 For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. *Isaiah 42:7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. *Luke 3:20 Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.

    March 5, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Terrance Wood

      And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. For the Lord shall rise up as in amount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.

      March 5, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Baalzabarber

      ...In a Galaxy Far Far Away

      March 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Terrance Wood

      And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infide|? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Father, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Father Almighty.

      March 5, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  12. Honey Badger Dont Care

    Where is Father Guido Sarduchi when we need him?

    March 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • clarity

      Lol – I know. This could have just as easily been a headline and picture from the Onion.

      March 5, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  13. NB

    Fake? Which of them isn't fake?

    March 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • PushingBack

      Good point!

      March 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • Science

      So true !


      Waiting for the talking snake to show up.

      March 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  14. Lycidas

    Regardless of one's opinion on religion and faith....when you do something this dumb, you should get more than just booted out.

    March 5, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • End Religion

      What this guy did was on about the same level as going to a local carnival, dressing as a clown and trying to get into a juggling class uninvited. What crime was committed for which you want to burn this man at the stake?

      March 5, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "What crime was committed for which you want to burn this man at the stake?"

      Drama much?

      Imagine if you will that Congress was in the process of impeaching the President or having to decide on the next President due to a tie in the election. Now think of a person who is attempting to get inside the Capitol by posing as a representative or one that works for a rep. Would you be ok with that?
      The Vatican and its Cardinals are in the process of electing the next Pope. Whatever your opinion of faith is...the Pope is also a political leader of a nation. Having someone impersonate an official and try to gain entry to a restricted area is stupid.

      March 5, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Don't you think the punishment depends on the laws of the jurisdiction?

      And really, how likely is it this would occur in the Senate or the House? Why isn't there better security?

      March 5, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "And really, how likely is it this would occur in the Senate or the House? Why isn't there better security?"

      (from the article) "Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the Virginia ex-couple who famously – or infamously – crashed President Obama’s first White House state dinner."

      I'm sure Obama and his ppl were asking the exact same type of questions.

      March 5, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Fine. Have it your way. The US capitol is JUST LIKE a state dinner is JUST LIKE the conclave of cardinals.

      March 5, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Though I did use it as a comparisson, in no way did I say or imply that a state dinner was "just like" anything. What they had in common is that individuals with vast political power could have unknown elements get close to them under the correct conditions.
      While I doubt the Vatican has the level of security as our political leaders (we can all agree that they do not take to modernization very well), it's the point that we would not stand for someone (even if it was for laughs) to try and sneak into an area with our political leaders doing important business...and we shouldn't be surprised when other nations don't react too well with it.

      March 5, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      While I concede, it's pretty hard to feel any pangs of sympathy or respect for the Catholic Church or its grand pooh-bahs about much of anything.

      March 5, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • End Religion

      "Now think of a person who is attempting to get inside the Capitol by posing as a representative or one that works for a rep. Would you be ok with that?"

      No, however I do not believe Theocratic Monarchies deserve the same respect as Republican Democracies. I understand that you prefer Theocratic Monarchies since you are an un-American Christian heathen.

      March 5, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
  15. Russ

    Relevant: the opening scene of Sn.atch...


    March 5, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  16. clarity

    I wonder if it's really another Sacha Baron Cohen character.

    March 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • sam


      March 5, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
    • Akira

      Well, this solves what my husband will wear to our next costume party...

      March 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • ME II

      Didn't see this post... you beat me to it.

      March 5, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  17. LOL

    Was probably looking to pick up a date with a bottom guy!

    March 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  18. OTOH

    "called himself “Basilius,”

    They most likely misheard his name. It is "Bah Silliest".

    March 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • OTOH

      ... or "Bah Silly Ass"

      March 5, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • LOL

      Or Balls is us.

      March 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  19. Akira

    Lol. What a loon.

    March 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  20. End Religion

    "Ye shall know him not by his deeds but by the proper designer clothes."

    March 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • clarity

      LMAO. "He shall know your ways as if born to them." –prophecy of the Mahdi

      March 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
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