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. Revenant Shadow

    Grifter of the Holy See

    March 5, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  2. conrad

    they figured out he's straight

    March 5, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  3. Caleb Boone


    A Bluejay among the Cardinali.

    I agree with Jackson and CJA above.

    Herr Napierski is an absolutely hilarious caricature of religiosity.

    For that alone he must get a grade of A-Plus in Theology.

    Have a Dovely.

    Sincerely yours,

    March 5, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  4. Puckles

    I guess he thought is was Halloween and he wanted to go as the devil.

    March 5, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
  5. The Flamingo Kid

    Funny that they have no trouble ousting this man, yet they hide and defend the molesters.

    March 5, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
  6. The Flamingo Kid


    March 5, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
  7. johnsullivanmusic

    Stolen Valor! How could anyone fake being a church leader? What?They're all faking? I get it

    March 5, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  8. Vote

    so far #1 mediocre
    #2 okay

    March 5, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Vote

      #3 off key

      March 5, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Vote

      #4 flat

      March 5, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Vote

      #5 pitchy

      March 5, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Vote

      #6 love the falseto,Perfect!

      March 5, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • Vote

      #? Loved the high notes ms H

      March 5, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Vote

      #9 great pipes

      March 5, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  9. Jackson

    Oh those wacky Germans. What will they think of next...

    March 5, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
  10. Age of Reason

    ..."NO one knows if this Jesus Christ existed, and if he did, NOTHING is known about him!" Bertrand Russell 1928

    March 5, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • FlyOnThe Scrtm

      No one knows if Bertrand Russel existed. I live in Africa and never heard of him.

      March 5, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  11. CJA

    Don't you all "get it"? The guy is not seriously trying to infiltrate the meeting. He is making a social comment. He is saying "I'm silly and acting like a nutcase, bit no more so than these guys" I think it is an attempt at either social comment or "performance art". The point of both is js to make people take notice and think and talk. He has done all of the above.

    Yes he claims to be a member of some organization he himself invented. I think that is a perfect comment on the church itself, that is exactly the same claim as Catholics make.

    It is like the way the guy with his Flying Spaghetti Monster makes a comment on Chistian fundimentalist by being exactly like them. This guy comments on Catholics by wearing goofy outfits and preaching stuff he just makes up.

    OK, you can disagree with him. But don't misunderstand what he is doing, you are taking him literally.

    March 5, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
  12. NorthVanCan

    We need someone on the inside to expose all the corruption and abuse.
    Save the children from abuse. Save the future of the planet from ignorance.

    March 5, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  13. Tetrapod

    How could he have thought he'd succeed in fooling them for long? His hat wasn't nearly silly enough!

    March 5, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
  14. Jeebusss

    He isn't any more crazy than the rest of the Catholics with their make-believe sky people.

    March 5, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  15. Ajax

    I like the fashion statement. the purpleis much more appealing than red.

    March 5, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  16. Lou Cipher

    Perhaps this fella is trying to joint the molestors club

    March 5, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  17. Curly Howard

    They caught him because he was the only one that didn't have pictures sleeping with little boys.

    March 5, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • iluvpizza

      Give that line a rest

      March 5, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
  18. pbernasc

    he knows how to attract media attention without really breaking the law... he is an idlot but sure got it 5 min of fame

    March 5, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • Vote

      #3 off key

      March 5, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  19. Mohammad, A. Dead Subject

    what about that Chinese on right of Sergio? is he real or he is counterfeit too!!

    March 5, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  20. maria

    Even if I disagree with this impostor ,it is better than a pedophile which we have enough in the Church ,get rid of the child molester called "priests" and do the same thing it is done with this one! stop sending them form one place to another to continue molesting children enough is enough!

    March 5, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • blessedgeek

      An impostor at hand is better than two paedophiles in the bush.

      March 5, 2013 at 7:59 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.