The fedora hat amid a group of red skull caps should have been a dead giveaway.
A “fake bishop’’ named Ralph Napierski was caught by Swiss guards trying to sneak into a secretive gathering of Catholic cardinals at the Vatican on Monday, but not until after he had posed for a photo with a real, high-ranking cardinal.
Napierski was pictured wearing a fedora instead of the cardinals' traditional red skull cap, as well as a purple sash around his waist that turned out to be an ordinary scarf, according to a report by USA Today. He was stopped by Swiss security before he was able to join the 140 real cardinals in Paul VI Hall who have gathered from around the world to discuss possible candidates to replace Pope Benedict XVI.
On his website, Napierski lists himself as a bishop from the fictional order of Corpus Dei, calling himself “a slave and apostle like St. Paul.’’ His contact information on the site lists Germany as his home country. He also told reporters at the Vatican that he was a member of the Italian Orthodox Church, which does not exist, according to the London Telegraph.
Before the ruse was discovered, Napierski was able to get close enough to pose for a picture as he shook hands with Italian Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana, a high-ranking cardinal who is the president emeritus of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
While the Vatican would not comment on Napierski’s attempt to infiltrate the secretive gathering, spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told USA Today, “All I can say in that everyone seated for the congregation is a real cardinal.’’