- Dennis Rodman, the flamboyant former NBA star, will ride a "Popemobile" into St. Peter's Square in Rome on Wednesday during the conclave to elect a new pope.
- The publicity stunt is being sponsored by PaddyPower.com, an Irish bookmaker known for its controversial advertising campaigns.
- Rodman is campaigning for the election of a black pontiff.
ROME — Dennis Rodman, the flamboyant former NBA star who recently paid a high-profile visit to North Korea, will ride a "Popemobile" into St. Peter's Square in Rome on Wednesday during the conclave to elect a new pope, his publicist told Edmunds.
The publicity stunt is being sponsored by PaddyPower.com, an Irish bookmaker known for its controversial advertising campaigns.
Rodman is campaigning for the election of a black pontiff.
According to the Paddy Power blog, if the cardinals elect the first black pope to replace Benedict XVI, Paddy Power will "refund losing single bets."
"The election of the first ever black pope could reflect the growing strength of the Catholic church in Africa and Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria are near the top of the betting," the blog noted.
Rodman's publicist, Jules Feiler, was unable to provide specific details on the year, make and model of Rodman's Popemobile. He referred queries to PaddyPower.com, which did not immediately respond to a query from Edmunds.
Feiler was also unable to say if Rodman — who once wore a wedding dress — would be dressed as a cardinal or a pope. He was also unable to say if Rodman was a Catholic.
"We don't talk religion or politics," Feiler said in a phone conversation.
"You know Dennis was in North Korea," Feiler said. "When he came back, I said he should probably just go around the world, like Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath. Dennis always makes literary references. I just said, 'Let's keep it moving.' He likes to travel and people like him."
The Grapes of Wrath reference is a puzzling one. The 1939 novel by John Steinbeck tells the story of a family's battle with starvation and economic desperation, according to the Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature. The Joads, the central figures in the novel, are "Okies," farmers moving west from a land of drought and bankruptcy to seek work as migrant fruit-pickers in California.
Rodman told TMZ.com that "I'm doing all these great historical things right now." He said in an interview at an airport on his way to Rome that "you gonna see me in the Popemobile doing my thing."
Mercedes-Benz has been a high-profile provider of papal transportation, but it is unlikely that Rodman will get his hands on the real deal. Last December, the German automaker gave the keys to a new sparkling white Mercedes-Benz M-Class Popemobile to Benedict XVI.
It is doubtful if Rodman's Popemobile stunt will have any impact on the papal election, especially since the cardinals who elect the Pope are locked inside the Sistine Chapel. The windows of the chapel have been blocked as a security measure. The Catholic Church also believes that the outcome of the election is influenced by the Holy Spirit — and not any campaigning.
"The bottom line is that if today fails to deliver a pope, all bets are off in terms of who might step out on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica wearing white," wrote John L. Allen Jr., one of the world's leading papal experts, writing in National Catholic Reporter on Wednesday.
Edmunds says: Dennis Rodman seems intent on inserting himself into current events, so it's not surprising to see him turn up in Rome as the eyes of the world are focused on the election of a new pope.