No, this isn’t one of the Salahis, but it’s not entirely dissimilar, either. An Italian man dressed up as a bishop and managed to bluff his way past the first security level of the Vatican, but his ruse didn’t go unnoticed for long. CBS News includes video of his entry at the end of a daily report on the progress of the College of Cardinals on the process to elect a new Pope:
“Bishop Ralph Napierski” got past a checkpoint of Swiss Guards and was photographed shaking hands with Sergio Cardinal Sebastiani in the cobblestone square to the left of St. Peter’s Basilica.
But Napierski never made it inside the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall, where more than 140 cardinals from around the world were having their first formal meeting since the resignation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
What gave the gatecrasher away?
Well, his cassock was several inches too short. His crucifix looked odd. His purple sash was obviously a scarf.
And instead of wearing a zucchetto — the familiar ecclesiastical skullcap of bishops — he had a black, brimmed fedora.
According to their report, though, “Bishop Napierski” may be no laughing matter:
Napierski, believed to be an Italian living in Germany, has a bizarre Web site in which he said he was “a slave and apostle like St. Paul” and came from “a tribe of the Roman Catholic Church” that is fighting “heresy and false movements” inside the church.
That doesn’t sound exactly like a harmless prank.
CBS also notes that the cardinals seem to be preparing for a longer conclave, as the range of candidates is broader now than any time in memory:
Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet says the search for a new pontiff has already widened.
“There was a focus on Europe obviously for centuries and centuries, and that someday, I think, someday it is to be expected that a pope would come from Asia, would come from Africa, would come from America,” he said. “It wouldn’t be a surprise. Nowadays it wouldn’t be a surprise.”
The Sistine Chapel was formally closed to tourists Tuesday to prepare it for the secret vote. Special urns for the electoral cardinals’ ballots were put on display.
The cardinals may have to huddle there for longer than the 1.8 days they averaged over the last six conclaves.
“I think we are just feeling our way right now in trying to determine what is the best way for us to proceed,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., noting that, “there are many of us in this conclave who were not in the last one, so this is all uncharted water for many of us.”
I’ll be there by the end of the week to report on the process for Hot Air and Salem Radio. And unlike “Bishop Napierski,” I have credentials to be at the Vatican.