Former NBA star Dennis Rodman said he is trying to get in touch with cardinals at the Vatican in order to secure a meeting with the next person chosen to fill the seat made vacant by Pope Benedict XVI.
In what many will describe as another strange move by the controversial sports star, Rodman told TMZ that "his people" are in Rome trying to speak with officials from the Vatican to arrange a future meeting with the next pope. Rodman himself is expected to arrive in Rome on Tuesday.
"I want to be anywhere in the world that I'm needed ... I want to spread a message of peace and love throughout the world," Rodman said about his purpose in trying to speak with the next man to be elected as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Last week, the former NBA star surprised many when he said he paid a visit to North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un in the secretive Pacific nation for a basketball exhibition game. While North Korea remains in a hostile relationship with much of the rest of the world, Rodman insisted that Kim is a great friend and a good leader, and urged President Barack Obama to call him so that the two can have a real discussion.
"He's proud, his country likes him – not like him, love him, love him," Rodman said of Kim. "Guess what, I love him. The guy's really awesome."
Rodman was heavily criticized for his support of the North Korean leader, with the Institute on Religion and Democracy reminding the former NBA star that thousands of Christians are currently suffering horrible abuse in the reclusive country.
"From incarcerating Christians and political prisoners in gulags to executing those caught fleeing over the Chinese border; North Korea's despotic rulers have consistently held the title of worst oppressors in the world," the organization reminded Rodman in a statement.
The Vatican has not yet responded to Rodman's request for an audience with the new pope, who might be chosen as early as this week.
The conclave to elect a new leader is currently taking place in the Vatican, though a frontrunner has not yet been named. Many say the Catholic Church finds itself in difficult times of transition, and a strong leader to replace the retired Benedict XVI is greatly needed.
"St. Paul teaches that each of us must work to build up the unity of the church," Cardinal Angelo Sodano said ahead of the vote. "All of us are therefore called to cooperate with the pastors, in particular with the successor of Peter, to obtain that unity of the holy church.