Phony cleric breaks cardinal rule by trying to sneak in Rome congregation ahead of conclave to elect new Pope


An Italian man almost managed to sneak into a private meeting of Catholic officials in Rome yesterday after dressing as a cardinal.

Ralph Napierski claimed that his name was “Basilius” and he was a member of the fictional “Italian Orthodox Church” as he attempted to crash the general congregation of cardinals, held ahead of the forthcoming conclave to elect a new Pope.

The phony cleric shook hands and chatted with archbishops and cardinals as they arrived, before being rumbled by Swiss Guards who saw through his disguise.

According to the Italian newspaper Gazzetta del Sud, suspicions were raised as his “cassock was shorter than standard”, his crucifix “unusual” and – most obviously – he wore a sash resembling a purple pashmina scarf.

A Vatican spokesman, said:  “All I can say is that everyone seated for the congregation is a real cardinal.”