Prankster Nearly Sneaks Into Meeting of Cardinals

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Among the men in red gathering Monday at the Vatican ahead of the papal election, the impostor in purple was easy enough to spot.

The meeting had not yet begun when someone noticed that one of the bishops posing for pictures with the arriving cardinals was wearing his cassock and his crucifix slightly too short.

On closer inspection they realized his purple sash was just a scarf.

The impostor’s phony ecclesiastical robes were convincing enough that he nearly managed to get past the door of the cardinals’ first crucial meeting since the pope resigned.

Ironically, one of their first orders of business was swearing an oath to secrecy, which would have been moot if the outsider had managed to gain access.

The Swiss Guard promptly ejected the man, later identified as Ralph Napiersi, who told reporters his name was “Basilius.”  Napierski said he belonged to an Italian Orthodox Church, which does not exist.

A website that appears to be associated with him describes him as a bishop of Corpus Dei, a fictional Catholic group.  The site not only has a fanciful coat of arms for the fake bishop — the motto “Horse of Christ” — it traces his phony credentials all the way back to an 18th Century Patriarch of Babylon.

Napierski is a proponent of “Jesus Yoga” and claims to be a keeper of relics, items of religious veneration because they were touched by or belonged to a saint.

“We want to equip churches (especialy [sic] those with low income) with high class relics,” it says on his website.  There are lots of spelling mistakes on the site.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said because he was not inside the meeting, he knew nothing about the incident.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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