Pope Francis, arriving in the United States, landed at the Andrews Air Force Base, was enthusiastically greeted by a welcoming committee headed by President Obama and Vice-President Biden, walked the red carpet, was cheered by the crowd inside the terminal building - and drove away in a Fiat 500.
To be precise, it's a Fiat 500L, the larger version with more space in the back. But it's a Fiat 500 nevertheless. And this is fitting for a pope who has chosen simplicity over pomp (just look at the saint whose name he has adopted). This is the man who, as Cardinal of Buenos Aires, used to take the bus to work.
And now, Pope Francis has skipped over the Rolls Royces and the Cadillacs, and climbs into a Fiat 500.
Talk about leading by example. He has suddenly made it utterly cool to get into a small car. Not just a small car: the iconic small car.
It is also a fitting start to his US tour, on which he will argue for social justice, which increasingly includes climate justice. His encyclical, Laudato Sí, calls for a radical change in the way we do things, in the interest of the poor and the vulnerable. Getting into a smaller car, for starters. If you haven't yet read the encyclical: it is not long, it is scientifically correct, and it is profoundly moving, even to a non-Catholic like me.
On Thursday, September 24, the Pope is addressing a special joint session of the US Congress. He's expected to spur them on to climate action, which they have been singularly unable to do so far. In support of the Pope and his message, there will be a rally for Moral Action on Climate, out on the National Mall. I intend to be there.
[Of course, Italian newspapers have highlighted the made-in-Italy popemobile. La Reppublica (which has a special section on Vatican affairs) has an entire slide show on the Fiat 500 on the Andrews Air Force Base. It's here; enjoy.]
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