.- Harley-Davidson owners flocked to St. Peter’s Square today for a chance to greet Pope Francis, and they came away struck by his friendliness and closeness to the people.
“To be here and see the Pope is absolutely amazing. He’s so friendly, he’s just so friendly,” said Bob from the Lakeside, England chapter as he spoke to CNA June 16.
His fellow Lakeside member Harry agreed. “He’s so friendly, and he comes to you,” he commented.
A Swiss motorcyclist went even further in her esteem for the new pontiff. “For me, he is the best Pope now – Papa Francesco,” said Simone from Lucerne.
For his part, Pope Francis offered a short greeting to the motorcyclists after celebrating a Mass for the Gospel of Life weekend that was organized by the Vatican as part of the ongoing Year of Faith.
Before praying the Angelus, the Pope noted with pleasure that Edward Focherini, a journalist and father of seven who was killed by the Nazis because of his faith, was beatified yesterday in Carpi, Italy.
“He saved many Jews from Nazi persecution. Together with the Church in Carpi, we give thanks to God for this witness of the Gospel of Life!” he declared.
Pope Francis also offered his sincere thanks to everyone who came “from Rome and from many parts of Italy and the world, especially families and those who work more directly for the promotion and protection of life.”
In his homily for the Gospel of Life Mass, the Pope underscored the importance of following God’s call for living a fruitful life, contrasting it with self-centered lifestyles that lead to slavery and death.
The crowd of pro-life pilgrims and the Harley aficionados certainly brought a different feel to the atmosphere in St. Peter's Square, but regardless of their reasons for being there, they all heard what the Pope had to say.
The motorcyclists drove to Rome from all over Europe and even overseas to take part in the 110th anniversary celebrations for the Harley-Davidson brand. They began invading the city on Thursday, and the low rumble of their engines has been present around the Vatican since then.
Via della Conciliazione, the street that leads to St. Peter’s Square, was packed with rows of Harleys parked along both sides of the road, about four or five bikes deep. Many of the motorcyclists decked out their rides with flags, stickers with the Vatican keys or pictures of Pope Francis.
Besides seeing the Pope, the “Harleyste” – as they are known in Italian – enjoyed the world famous architecture, such as the Coloseum. “The old buildings are just amazing and this place (St. Peter’s) is just fantastic,” said Bob from the Lakeside Chapter.