A man impersonating a Bishop managed to sneak past Vatican security and get photographed with a cardinal—with only confidence, a winning smile, an entourage of fake clerics, and a too-short cassock. Good thing people still know what that is, because this paltry robe was his giveaway.
On Monday, this fraudster attempted to slink into the conclave—the secret meetings in which Catholic cardinals try to determine their next Pope.
He selected the very real sounding name of Basilius and claimed he was a bishop in the Italian Orthodox Church, which surprisingly does not exist.
The fake bishop even posed for a choice photo-op with real Italian Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, president emeritus of the Vatican’s Prefecture for Economic Affairs. Basilius wriggled past at least one round of security before he was stopped outside of the Sistine Chapel and God’s judgey pointer finger.
Doing their thing as fourth estate watchdogs, Italian news agency ANSA exposed Basilius as Ralph Napierski, a German man who is part of a nonexistent Catholic group called Corpus Dei (like “Opus Dei,” but fake).
It turns out that you can make Napierski’s winning costume with simple home items—including a black fedora in place of a clergyman’s skull cap and your mother’s fuchsia scarf used a sash. And a little group of fake priests who you have presumably hired.