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Page last updated at 03:26 GMT, Sunday, 6 July 2008 04:26 UK

'Fake' priest exposed at Vatican

St Peter's Basilica. File pic
The fake priest was "caught by surprise in the basilica"

A man posing as a priest has been caught trying to hear confessions in St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, a judge in the city-state has said.

Judge Gianluigi Marrone said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano the man had clerical robes and documents.

Judge Marrone did not say when the incident took place.

He said the man was tried by a Vatican tribunal but would not reveal the verdict or any punishment.

'Unmasked'

Judge Marrone said the man claimed he was a priest.

"He was caught by surprise in the basilica while he was trying to take his place in a confessional.

"He was wearing clerical garb, but the expert eye of our personnel didn't need much to sense something strange in his behaviour."

The documents and Vatican pass appeared legitimate but checks with Italian authorities "unmasked him", Judge Marrone said, as having posed as a priest before in Italy.

"It was a case of usurping an ecclesiastical title, and thus he was tried by our tribunal."

The judge said much of the work of the tribunal involved petty thefts of Vatican visitors' wallets.


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