The pope’s ride was not what people were expecting.
As the pontiff’s plane touched down at Joint Base Andrews, he was greeted by a red carpet, cheering fans, a band and a welcoming committee including President Barack Obama and the First Family.
So it seemed a little anti-climactic when the famously humble leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics climbed not into a limousine but into a modest dark grey Fiat 500L for his drive to the Vatican Embassy in Washington. The small car was dwarfed by the bulky SUVs of the president’s motorcade.
As the pontiff rode off in his humble ride, waving at the crowd through the open window, Twitter exploded with praise for the ‘people’s pope,’ calling the choice of car everything from “adorable” to “sending an environmental message.”
Francis is well known in Rome for his down-to-earth manner, often leaving the Vatican for errands in a Ford Focus. Earlier this month he caused a stir in downtown Rome he was spotted taking the car to an eyewear shop to be fitted for new glasses.
The pope flew to the United States from Cuba in a standard, chartered Alitalia plane he uses for international trips.
In stark contrast, when Saudi Arabia’s King Salman landed at Andrews earlier this month he came with four airplanes, was greeted by dozens of cars and rented every single room at the Four Seasons in Washington.
Francis will spend a quiet night at the Vatican Embassy before beginning his official visit Wednesday morning at the White House.