Pope Francis plans to drive used car around Vatican City by himself
By Carol Kuruvilla, New York Daily News, September 11, 2013
He’s a holy roller!
Pope Francis’ plans to drive around Vatican City in a 1984 Renault 4 have his security guards in a tizzy.
The sweet wheels have already logged 190,000 miles on the road. It’s a second hand gift from a northern Italian priest who used the car to visit his poor parishioners, Famiglia Cristiana reports.
The 70-year-old priest, Rev. Renzo Zocco from Verona, sent Pope Francis some fan mail earlier this year, pledging his support and offering up his car. In true Francis fashion, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics called Zocco’s cell phone in August for a quick chat.
At first, Francis was reluctant to accept the gift, thinking that it should be given to the poor. But Zocco reassured him that the car would serve as a testimony to the work that the priest had done in the working-class neighborhoods of Verona. Plus, he already had a replacement.
Zocco and about 100 of his parishioners from the church of Santa Lucia di Pescantina piled into a bus and headed for Rome. The pilgrims rolled up to the Vatican on Saturday with the 25-year-old car on a tow truck.
A Vatican spokesman confirmed to the AP that Francis intends to drive the car around the city state.
The white car had been fitted with a new 800 cc. 30-horse power engine. It uses a French stick shift that folds out from the dashboard and deck-chair-style seats, ABC reports.
The car fits right in to the image of simple humility that the pontiff has tried to show the masses. His predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI chose to be driven around in luxury BMWs and Mercedes, but Francis requested a Ford Focus.
In July, he encouraged Catholic priests and nuns to shun expensive limousines and cars.
"A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world," he said.
When he saw his new ride, Francis told Zocco that driving manual would be no problem for him. He used a Renault back when he was Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina.
When Zocco explained that half of his party was stuck outside the Vatican gates because of security, Francis decided to take his new toy for a spin.
"Let’s go," he reportedly told Zocco.
Zocco drove while the Pope climbed into the passenger seat.
"I can’t tell you how thrilled my parishioners were when they saw the Renault 4 arrive and the pope get out of it!" said Zocca.
Francis greeted his people before giving his security guards another scare. The pope grabbed the keys from Zocca, then popped into the driver’s seat
"Write me again," he told Zocco, before zooming back into the Vatican by himself.
"The security personnel next to me were very concerned because they understood that from now on he would be tooling around the Vatican in my car," Zocca said. "I left some snow chains in the trunk. You never know."