A German man disguised as a bishop snuck into the Vatican Monday as part of an attempt to infiltrate the secret pre-conclave meetings of the Church officials who will choose the next pope.
Fake bishop Ralph Napierski claimed to be a bishop of the (non-existent) German Catholic Order "Corpus Dei," according to Italian news agency ANSA.
According to the "Corpus Dei" website, it is an order "after episcopal [sic] law" that is "defending the catholic [sic] faith inside the church against heretics that are inside the church" and working to "unite all christians [sic] under the cross."
The "Corpus Dei" website lists "Bishop Ralph Napierski" as its founder and states that he is also an "internet activist and hacker for information freedom and information security."
Napierski is also involved with "Jesus Yoga," which claims to promote “the ancient and hidden techniques of Christian meditation."
This does not appear to be the first time that Napierski has snuck into high-profile meetings of the Catholic Church. He posted a picture on his Facebook page of him and leading papal contender Cardinal Peter Turkson.
On Monday, after he cleared the first level of security, Napierski mingled with Cardinals and various officials for half an hour outside the auditorium where the top-secret meeting was to take place.
He introduced himself as "Basilius" to the reporters and Cardinals outside the auditorium and claimed to be a bishop in the Italian Orthodox Church (which also doesn't exist).
Security grew suspicious of Napierski's strange garb, which included a "too-short cassock, a black fedora in place of a clergy's skull cap and a bright purple-pink sash" that turned out to be a scarf and stopped him as he entered the meeting.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, would not comment on Napierski's alleged attempt to enter the congregations. "All I can say is that everyone seated for the congregation is a real cardinal," he said.
Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 6055 A264 DADD AADC 347E 5986 547C C11C DD7D 176A.
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