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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. Ca Ed

    Where is Father Guido Sarducci when we really need him?

    I tell ya, these fake priests will ruin the Church, just ruin it...

    March 5, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Doobs

      Actually, Father Guido has been posting here.

      March 5, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • Dean Edward

      Looks like Danny Bonaduci's brother.

      March 5, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  2. PPJr

    And, above all, he was *not* a gay pedophile. No way he could blend in!

    March 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Ty

      What does being gay have to do with being a pedophile? The correct answer is 'nothing'.

      March 5, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Hola

      Just cuz someone does something to you doesnt mean that you can blame others. There are a lot of good men among the cardinal

      March 5, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ Hola

      They are such good men that they systematically covered up the abuse of children, and, instead of having these pedophiles arrested, they quietly moved them to new parishes where they could continue their abuse with no accountability.

      March 5, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  3. cpc65

    He just had a hankerin' for some alter boys.

    March 5, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • fyi

      It's "altar", not "alter".

      (And it's also a very trite and unimaginative comment)

      March 5, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  4. guidoi sarducci

    What was he thinking with the fedora and the wrong colored sash?
    If you plan to imitate a cardina,l at least get the wardrobe details down pat!
    He looks good though, I tip my hat to him.

    March 5, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yeah, but you gotta say it with a accent! "I tippa my hatta to heem."

      March 5, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Chaos

      He probably deviated somewhat on purpose.

      March 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • nostrildamus

      that may mean his dispute of the media reports had some merit. He may have "just" been playing a gag with no intent of trying to get into Paul VI Hall, but rather just "photobomb".

      March 5, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  5. Jeff

    What a complete idiot...

    I mean...if you're going to fake being a clergy...at least get the right clothes and equipment!!!

    Sheesh!~!!!!

    March 5, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  6. Sane Person

    Good to see they will punish at least one "clergyman".

    March 5, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  7. bostontola

    Kudos to Mr. Napierski, the fedora is a great touch. Why so serious?

    March 5, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  8. jimbo

    Black smoke "bad", white smoke "good". Fedora "bad", skull cap "good".

    March 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  9. ogre12

    there always has to be an idiot in the crowd.

    March 5, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Lou Cipher

      True but it ain't the intruder.

      March 5, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  10. Puzzled in Peoria

    Ya, the cheesy outfit immediately gave him away. Fedora like a rabbi or Frank Sinatra.

    All the fruitcakes don't come in cans.

    March 5, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • trek 820

      NUT JOB!

      March 5, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • jimbo

      Good to see some humor. Don't know which fruitcake is enjoying it more, Ralph or Sergio.

      March 5, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  11. Lou Cipher

    I dig this guy. he really seems to be enjoying himself. These guys are not dignitaries for Pete's sake. They are just members of another "Good ole boys club"

    March 5, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • The Truth

      So you allow anyone to come into your house as long as they pretend to be part of the family?

      March 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  12. Buck Rogers

    This guy needs to work for NASA, perhaps he can assist them with their next generation of space fakes.....

    http://www.fountainsofthegreatdeep.com/IFS.htm

    March 5, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Flash Gordon

      I want to believe more than I don't want to believe and that is all you need to take with you. Oh, and I was flying spaceships since you were a child, Buck.

      March 5, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  13. Are there Neanderthals in Heaven?

    What do the Christian "thinkers" say on this important question?

    March 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  14. se

    that reporter shows that the devil never sleeps.

    March 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  15. Smarter than U

    Father Guido Salducci is joyous.

    March 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • Steve

      LOL Very good!

      March 5, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  16. Chad Cooper

    I don't mean to be a stickler for details, but this is CNN. "The fake bishop played the part of cardinal, donning a purple sash (really a scarf) over his vestments". – Cardinals wear a red sash, bishops (and some senior priest) wear a purple sash, so this guy wasn't playing "the part of a cardinal", he was playing the part of a bishop.

    March 5, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Steve

      I thought the same thing!

      March 5, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Akira

      Probably because "A man who THOUGHT he was impersonating a Cardinal, but was dressed like a Bishop or Elder Priest, wearing a fedora" didn't make good copy, especially the guy's stated goal was infiltrating the Conclave.
      Probably also why he was caught.

      March 5, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Jessica RavitzCNN

      Chad, thanks for catching this! Though people suspected he was trying to get into the meeting as a cardinal, he's denying all the reports. So since we can't say with certainty what his intentions were as he got dressed, we'll smooth out that language. Thanks, again!

      March 5, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  17. Chef Sun

    Well he actually should fit right in as they're all fakes in their own ways. He just needed a better wardrobe.

    March 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • JBHedgehog

      Agreed. If we can just get a decent Hollywood seamstress and some good photos for reference I bet we can blend in with no problem. It's not as though these guys have any pockets in which to keep their IDs.

      March 5, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • ogre12

      it is not about the garb that makes the man it is the man who makes the garb and there have been many more bishops, cardinals, and popes who have led the Church the way Christ intended from the start.

      March 5, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  18. Mohammad, A. Dead Subject

    Cardinal Sergio must be feeling stupid !!! I guess the other guy just ruined his chance to become a Pawp, Sergio must sue him for the lost opportunity, lol,

    March 5, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Hola

      No it wouldnt, they wouldnt find out about this AFTER they have elected a Pope

      March 5, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  19. OldSchool

    Some random nut...

    March 5, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  20. Badly-Bent

    If you see pope-soap-on-a-rope, don't bend over!

    March 5, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.