Vatican Imposter Caught: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Ralph Napierski

Security at the Vatican was breached yesterday after a man posing as a bishop was caught trying to sneak into a meeting among other cardinals to discuss candidates for the next pope. According to the Christian Post, the impostor, Ralph Napierski, was escorted off the church by Swiss guards after he posed for a photo next to a real cardinal. Here are some quick facts on what happened at the Vatican.

1. Ralph Listed Himself as a Bishop

Bishop Ralph Napierski

In order to pose as a bishop, Ralph Napierski posted on his site that he is a bishop from the fictional order of Corpus Dei, which he founded. He wrote on the site that he’s originally from Germany. He told reporters that he was a member of the Italian Orthodox Church, which doesn’t exist according to the Daily Telegraph.

2. He Posed For a Picture With a Real Cardinal

Fake Bishop Poses with Cardinal

Before he was caught, Ralph Napierski was able to get a picture and shake hands with Italian Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana. The two were spotted in the photograph near cobblestone square at St. Peter’s Basilica. Sergio is a high-ranking cardinal who serves as the president emeritus of the Vatican’s Prefecture for Economic Affairs.

3. Ralph Was Trying to Get into the Cardinal’s Meeting

Pope Paul VI Audience Hall

Ralph Lapierski was attempting to get into the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall where more than 140 cardinals from around the world were having a formal meeting to discuss Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.


4. Ralph Nearly Passed Security

Sistine Chapel

The fake bishop was able to sneak past one level of security before being stopped outside of the Sistine Chapel. Ralph Napierski was stopped at the auditorium where the meeting was suppose to take place. What gave him away was the too-short cassock, a black fedora (instead of wearing the clergy’s red cap), and a purple sash that turned out to be a scarf.

5.  This Wasn’t the First Time Someone Sneaked into the Church

Beautification mass of John Paul II

This wasn’t the first time that a fake clergyman tried to enter the cardinals’ important meeting. In 2011, a small group of fake bishops were entering the beautification mass of John Paul II and got caught be security. The Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi didn’t comment on Ralph Napierski’s alleged attempt to enter the function, but assured that the members of the gathering are real. “All I can say is that everyone seated for the congregation is a real cardinal,” he said.

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