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Pope Francis goes climate big in small way with Fiat 500

Pope Francis waves as a passenger in a Fiat 500L.

The frugality of Pope Francis is not a new topic. But when the pontiff disembarked the plane at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Sept. 22 he showed the world audience another example of his preferred lifestyle. He chose a black Fiat 500L in which to ride from the airport into Washington, D.C.

The Fiat 500L, which has a base price of just under $20,000, was dwarfed by numerous blacked-out SUVs in the Pope’s motorcade. But for his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis was simply continuing his preferred method of travel.

During his papacy, Pope Francis has used modified Toyotas, Kias, Hyundais and Land Rovers among others. When he is in Rome, he often opts for either Ford Focus and or a used Renault 4.

Many vehicles during previous papacies have been large luxury cars, with about one-third made by Mercedes-Benz.

Pope Francis has a strong opinion of climate change. During a papal encyclical in June he warned the Earth is rapidly becoming “an immense pile of filth.”

Pope Francis waves while as passenger in a Fiat 500L.
Pope Francis waves to a cheering airport crowd as passenger in a Fiat 500L.

The Pope’s ride in an economical car was brief. When he arrived in New York, he switched to a more traditional “Popemobile.” The choice: a modified Jeep Wrangler.

When he first assumed the papacy, Pope Francis was given a new Mercedes M-Class Popemobile, complete with a bulletproof glass box. It became a standard delivery to popes following the attempted assassination of John Paul II in 1981.

Yet the current pontiff prefers open-sided vehicles. He once called the traditional popemobile as a glass “sardine can.”

More pointedly, the Pope made his beliefs well-known some time ago when he said:

“It hurts my heart when I see a priest with the latest model car. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger.”

Editor’s note: The Weekly Driver has reviewed several Fiat models in recent years. Here’s our review of the 2014 Fiat 500L

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