Pranksters of the world need to observe a moment of silence for Ralph Napierski, a man whose trickery reached religious proportion when he almost managed to sneak into Monday’s pre-papal conclave meeting at the Vatican.
As ABC News reports, Napierski, who falsely identifies himself as a bishop and runs a website only rivaled by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, began posing for photos with the other top holy men who had arrived for the first Meeting of Cardinals since Pope Benedict XVI gave up his prime post last month.
The German national’s performance was so convincing that he even managed to sneak into the single file line of cardinals heading toward the ultra exclusive tete-a-tete at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
But alas, it was a fashion misstep that outed the phony priest. Though his ecclesiastical robes looked convincing (the fedora was a nice, authentic touch, too), Napierski’s bright fuschia sash didn’t quite blend in with the more common red sash and skullcap of the papal uniform – particularly when it became quite clear that the sash was in fact a scarf, tassels and all.
In stepped the Swiss Guard, who prevented Napierski from following 140 actual cardinals into the inner circle. Good thing too, because any security breach would have compromised the “oath of secrecy” sworn by each member at the beginning of the meeting.
Once he realized the gig was up, Napierski told authorities he belongs to an Italian Orthodox Church and is a card-carrying member of the Corpus Dei, both of which do not exist in real life.
Among his more impressive fictions, the man who identified himself to the Swiss Guard as “Basilius” says he’s a practitioner of “Jesus Yoga” (Jesus Yoga!), a religious hybrid that probably won’t endear itself to too many Christians. (But just in case you’re curious, he’s got a WordPress site about it, too.)
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And we can’t fail to mention his dedication to providing “low income churches” with religious relics that are probably as authentic as his credentials.
Though high-profile security breaches of this magnitude are rare, a few daring individuals have managed to get through heavily guarded areas in the past.
The National Post notes that a group of fake bishops managed to wiggle their way into a beatification ceremony for Pope John Paul II last year before they were ceremoniously ejected – which, hey, is way better than being ceremoniously executed.
And though this isn’t exactly a religious breach (depending on your level of veneration for the monarchy, that is), Michael Fagan earned great 20th century notoriety as the man who broke into Queen Elizabeth’s Buckingham Palace bedroom and saw the sovereign in her nightie.
As you can imagine, she was not amused.
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