Pope chooses humble Fiat 500L rather than limousine
There was no fancy limousine for Pope Francis on his first visit to the United States after he chose to ride in a tiny Fiat 500L, while the President was driven off from their meeting in his giant $1million armored car The Beast.
The 78-year-old Roman Catholic leader is in the United States for the first time for a five-day tour across D.C., New York and Philadelphia, coinciding with the United Nations summit which will see more than 100 world leaders arrive in New York.
The Pope waves from his humble Fiat 500 after arriving in Washington. Picture/AP.
On his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, President Barack Obama greeted the pontiff and introduced him to his family and Vice President Joe Biden before they walked down the line of dignitaries. The pair then got into separate motorcades.
Known for being humble and unassuming, the pontiff was driven away in the tiny Fiat 500L which was dwarfed by its security vehicles, while President Obama traveled in 'The Beast', his gigantic bomb-proof General Motors Cadillac with eight-inch thick armor-plating on its doors.
The car, worth over $1million, is 18ft in length, weighs 8 tons and has 8in thick armour plating on its doors.
The Pope leaving Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, in a Fiat 500L, dwarfed by larger security vehicles. Picture/AP.
By comparison, Pope Francis' tiny Fiat 500, which is just 11ft 7in long and costs less than $20,000.
His choice of the small, economical car may be seen as a message on climate change - which will be the focus of his speech before the United Nations where he is expected to implore the General Assembly to take much more aggressive steps to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.
The Argentinian pontiff previously sent out an unprecedented encyclical calling for a 'fundamental change of course to protect the earth and its people'.
His simple Fiat may also be a reflection on Francis' drive to make the Catholics focus less on material goods and more on the poor.
Since succeeding Pope Benedict in 2013, the former cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina has eschewed some of the more ostentatious trappings of his office and has chosen to live in a Vatican guest house rather than the opulent papal apartments.
He has also picked more modest vehicles than his German predecessor who had a preference for a luxury Mercedes Popemobile.
In 2013, he even called on priests to stop driving flashy cars and pick something more 'humble'.
He said: '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.
'During his trip, he will also be chauffeured in a Jeep Wrangler Popemobile, also manufactured by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Fiat USA tweeted, '#blessed' after the pope's vehicle departed for the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's mission in Washington.
The license plate on the Fiat reads SCV 1, which means Vatican City 1. SCV stands for Status Civitatis Vaticanae, Latin for Vatican City State.
President Obama's Cadillac One, nicknamed 'The Beast'.
While the President's Cadillac One, nicknamed 'The Beast', was specially built for him by the General Motors GM.N and even boasts its own oxygen supply in case of chemical attack and puncture resistant, run-flat tires reinforced with Kevlar.
It also features a panic button and an armored and insulated fuel tank to prevent it exploding even if it suffers a direct hit.
With enough space for four passengers in the back, the car is driven by a U.S. Secret service chauffeur trained to drive in the most challenging of conditions and perform maneuvers such as a 180 degree turn called a J-turn.
The doors have eight inches of armor-plating and weighs the same as the cabin door of a Boeing 7474 while the windows will stand armor-piercing bullets.
It also has night-vision cameras, pump-action shotguns and tear gas cannons. Bottles of the president's blood are kept on-board in case he needs a transfusion and the trunk holds an oxygen supply.
Francis had arrived from Cuba, where he urged a continued reconciliation between the Communist-run island and its superpower neighbor. He helped broker the landmark diplomatic deal between America and Cuba in December last year.
His decision to go from Cuba to the world's most powerful and richest nation is symbolic as he implores the Church to embrace outsiders.
Cindy Wooden, Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service, was on board the Washington-bound plane with the pope, who told her about his time in Cuba, denying suggestions he is a 'liberal' or 'Leftie'. 'I have never said anything more than what is in church social teaching,' he said.
Obama and Francis will meet again on Wednesday at the White House.
The Pope in his Fiat 500L after arriving at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington. Picture/AP.
Social media users praised the pope for his 'humble' choice of vehicle.
Will McDonald said:'The Pope humbles himself. Instead of some fancy limousine....he rides in a little Fiat!'
While Dominic tweeted: 'The Pope is riding around in a Fiat! He really seems like a humble, down-to-earth kind of guy. #PopeInDC
One Twitter user added: 'The average celeb has fancy car service. the Pope...a fiat.'
The pope's arrival has also been something of a blessing for Fiat USA who tweeted: 'His Holiness knows how to make an entrance.'