Man arrested for impersonating ex-pope

Dressed in a white cassock, a cross and a white skull cap, a street performer near the Colosseum has been been arrested for bearing a ghostly resemblance to former Pope John Paul II.

Man arrested for impersonating ex-pope
File photo of the real Pope John-Paul II: Patrick Hertzog/AFP

The 55-year-old Slovak street performer was detained, fined and stripped of his cassock on Friday after police received an anonymous complaint.

“The problem was that he looked a lot like Karol Wojtyla. He was detained for usurpation of title – which is a misdemeanour,” a police spokeswoman told AFP.

The news agency reports that street performer, who has not been named, has now been released but will be fined between €154 and €929 ($200 and $1,200) for the crime.

A nearby vendor selling miniature Colosseum souvenirs on a spot overlooking the Roman Forum said he saw the man being arrested. “He was right here, near me. He was taken away by two officers in civilian clothes who were pretending to be tourists,” he said.

The area around the Colosseum is a popular spot for street performers, notably men impersonating Roman centurions, hoping to cash in on the hordes of tourists that visit the famous monument every day. But up until now none have been as controversial as the Pope-impersonator.  

As another officer put it: "If he had been dressed like Tutankhamun nothing would have happened."

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