After meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, retired American basketball star Dennis Rodman's next target is to meet the soon-to-be elected pope in a bid to help save the Roman Catholic Church battered by scandals and now without a chief shepherd after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI resigned on Feb 28.
At Thursday's basketball game, Rodman and Jong-un could be seen laughed, celebrating and conversing in English. They later had a sushi dinner together.
Rodman's new image as an unofficial peace diplomat is a turnaround from his previous bad boy image marked by frequent hair colour changes, body piercings and tattoos, disruptive hardcourt behaviour and notorious photo shoots.
Rodman arrived in Italy on Tuesday to monitor, together with thousands of other Vatican visitors, the colour of the smoke from the Sistine Chapel, if it would still be black like what emanated on Tuesday night or be white.
Should it be white smoke, he hopes to be one of the first to meet the new pontiff. Rodman said he is in touch with Vatican and is arranging for a sit-down with the new pope.
"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," The Washington Examiner quoted the basketball player.
He cited the positive experience of his meeting with the North Korean leader, who is a Rodman and Chicago Bulls fan, as the reason for wanting to also meet with the future pope. Rodman said Mr Kim just wants a call from U.S. President Barack Obama to initiate peace talks with the West.
How long Rodman would have to wait until the cardinal electors choose the next pope remains a question hanging in the air for 1.2 billion Catholics around the world waiting for the phrase, "Habemus Papam!"
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