It’s two-wheels good as pope blesses Harley enthusiasts in Rome

Pope Francis temporarily abandons kissing babies to bless bikers and their machines

Pope Francis blesses the Harley-Davidson bikers from his Popemobile before the start of a mass outside Saint Peter’s Square in Rome yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

Pope Francis blesses the Harley-Davidson bikers from his Popemobile before the start of a mass outside Saint Peter’s Square in Rome yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

Mon, Jun 17, 2013, 01:00



From “Hell’s Angels” on Harley Davidson motorbikes to the troubled life and times of the Vatican Bank IOR, this was another of those weekends when Pope Francis experienced for himself that there is no job in the world like being pope.

Complete with de rigeur leather jackets, long hair (if they still had it) and bushy moustaches, the bikers on massive, noisy Harley Davidsons rode into the Eternal City yesterday. An estimated 30,000 of them have gathered in Rome to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the iconic US motorbike.

Heaven on wheels
There was a time, too, when you might have expected them to approach the Vatican with less than peaceful intentions. However, even Hell’s Angels are getting older. The bikers lined up in Via Della Conciliazione just off St Peter’s Square in order to attend the pope’s traditional Sunday Angelus. With the bikes revving away, Pope Francis temporarily abandoned kissing babies to bless the bikers and their machines.

On a more serious note, Pope Francis appeared to ring one important change last weekend with the appointment of Msgr Battista Mario Salvatore Ricca as “prelate” of the Vatican Bank, IOR (Institute for Religious Works). The prelate reports to the Commission of Cardinals which oversees the bank, attends board meetings and has access to IOR’s famously secret files.

Msgr Ricca is a member of the Holy See’s diplomatic corps.

He also administers a number of church-residences including the Domus Santa Marta, the Vatican B&B where Francis has chosen to live rather than move into the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace.

While living in Santa Marta, Pope Francis has come to know and appreciate Msgr Ricca who, accordingly, has been entrusted with the delicate task of overseeing the Vatican’s often controversial bank.