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. BeyondBelief

    May the Good Lord bless all these nut cases in this world! They are here to fill the void and provide meaning to this imperfect world.

    March 6, 2013 at 4:06 am |
  2. kevobx

    The things in the world, the people's possessions all come from Satan. Do you glorify him, why not? But instead the world itself is worshipping him, bowing their head down to the ground. (*Revelation 13:8*) *Isaiah 25:9 And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. *Micah 4:5 For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever. *Hebrews 12:29 For our God is a consuming fire. *Exodus 3:4 And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. *John 8:58-59 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: *1st Kings 18:31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:. *Luke 9:33 one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. *Isaiah 25:7 And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.

    March 6, 2013 at 3:18 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      The most effective way oppose Satan is to realize that he is not real, and to oppose evil and its true sources.

      March 6, 2013 at 3:53 am |
  3. troll

    Abby Lee Miller doesn't have a "White Patsy" so why a "Black Patsy"?

    March 6, 2013 at 1:41 am |
  4. ophu

    He really doesn't seem any odder than the rest of them.

    March 6, 2013 at 1:28 am |
  5. Poltergeist

    It's amazing how far you can get into places by just acting like your supposed to be there.

    March 6, 2013 at 1:04 am |
  6. Karol Wojtyła

    Didn't the same thing happen to Father Guido Sarducci?

    March 6, 2013 at 12:43 am |
  7. Homer10

    Where is Father Sarducci when you need him?

    March 6, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • Karol Wojtyła

      Time to find the Pope in da Pizza.

      March 6, 2013 at 12:45 am |
  8. urban turner


    March 6, 2013 at 12:04 am |
  9. troll

    I'm watching Abby Lee Miller and I wonder if the dance mom they call "Black Patsy" really goes by that moniker.

    March 5, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • Joe


      March 6, 2013 at 12:01 am |
  10. EX catholic

    The RCC is First and foremost a Politico-Religious Organization with Financial and Social Interests in this and of this world. The RCC IS NOT even a church according to the model CLEARLY shown in the New Testament Scriptures. Therefore they are all fake, ALL of them are Fakes.

    March 5, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • End Religion

      CLEARLY all other religions are fakes according to the Truth of the Gospel of The Flying Spaghetti Monster. May you be touched by His Noodly Appendage and break free from your heathen Christian ways. RAmen!

      March 6, 2013 at 1:47 am |
  11. juanturnbeau

    Aren't all of them are fake?

    March 5, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  12. Aristocles

    Cardinals wear red, normal bishops use purple. Whoops.

    March 5, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  13. Joe

    I have actually met this guy when I was in Germany with the Army. His sect had a falling out with the Church a while ago. He is deffinately not your ordinary bishop and does not have a physical church. I assume he wants to patch things up with the Church.

    March 5, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
  14. Travis

    When are you guys in the media going to learn that people only do things like this because they know that they will get publicity out of it? This fool got everything he wanted the second you posted this article. Now maybe he'll get his own reality show, just like the White House crashers did. If you must report on something like this, then at least omit the person's name so that they will never be famous for their antics. Your viewers and readers would be just as happy and content to read the story of John Doe breaking into the Vatican. Stop giving these idiots a reason to do these things!

    March 5, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
  15. Akira

    The guy's got moxy, I'll give him that.

    March 5, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  16. pat d.

    If the new networks have the usual coverage of the new Pope when it happens, I think I'm going to get sick. Like the up to date coverage they had when Paul was taking his last breaths.

    March 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Ronald Husssein Reagan

      I take my mitre off to the man – shows wit, initiative and imagination. Bravo!.

      March 5, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Ronald Husssein Reagan

      I lived in Mexico in 1970. I read in the paper one day, El Papa es uerto. THEn I went down SOuth for a weeek or two away from alll media. WHen I got back the headline read. El Papa es muerto. I was dconfusedMy first thgouht was," The pope died again?"

      March 5, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
  17. northern light

    It's perfect....a fake bishop for a fake belief system.

    March 5, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • pat d.

      You've got that right, Northern Light! Now, this would be a story " Up to Date Coverage from CNN: Catholics Give a Shi*!" NOT Up to Date Coverage: "The Resignation of the Pope"

      March 5, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • LA

      That doesn't even make sense. Because you do not share it does not mean it is "fake", and how can a belief system even be "fake"?. Stay ignorant, my friend. You're doing a good job so far. The problem is, you aren't capable of realizing it.

      March 5, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  18. tfbuckfutter


    Earthworm Jim isn't actually a bishop?

    March 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • breathe deep

      Of course not, Toejam is the original pope and Earl was the first ordained minister.

      March 6, 2013 at 3:01 am |
  19. Lisa

    Ha.. the other priests found him self-aggrandizing. Now that's a laugh!

    March 5, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
  20. Gino

    They're all fakers. It's all part of The Magic Show.

    March 5, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • LA

      Sweeping generalizations are never correct and say far more about you than about them. If that has to be explained to you, you probably aren't able to understand it anyway.

      March 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • I_get_it


      Yeah, it just must be "God's" will to create folks with the inability to understand, right ?!

      March 5, 2013 at 10:37 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.