Thursday, January 26, 2006

An Archbishop on False Pretences

Rome: March 25th, 1826.—I have been waiting to write the account of a singular impostor, hoping always to pick up more particulars, but I fear in the midst of the wonders that surround me I may lose the recollection of what I do know.

Some time ago an Egyptian arrived at Rome bearing a letter from the pacha, in which he stated to the pope that, having in his dominions a very large Catholic population, he wished to have a bishop to be at the head of this Church, and sent the bearer, hoping that he might be ordained. The request was most willingly granted. The Egyptian was clothed, fed, lodged, and taught: the teaching was rather a slow process, but the ignorance of an African was not likely to excite suspicion. In short, the Egyptian was named Archbishop of Memphis, and with this title returned to his own country.

The pacha wrote an angry expostulation to the pope for interfering with his subjects, and it was not till then discovered that the first letter was a forgery and the Archbishop of Memphis a daring impostor. He was sent here, and was sentenced to death, which has since been commuted to hard labour as a galley slave for life. I have been told that all this while he is archbishop; for that dignity once conferred cannot, according to the Catholic canon, be taken away. Others tell me he is degraded, and I cannot get at the truth.

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