Leather, tattoos and hogs came to the Vatican on Sunday, when Pope Francis blessed thousands in honor of Harley Davidson’s 110-year anniversary.
The roaring motors nearly drowned out the Latin rendition of "Our Father" prayer. Before leading an open-air mass in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Francis greeted the crowd in an open-top jeep along the street that leads up to the Vatican, Reuters reports.
“To be here and see the Pope is absolutely amazing. He’s so friendly, he’s just so friendly,” Bob from the Lakeside, England chapter Harley-Davidson club told the Catholic News Agency.
Thousands traveled from all over Europe to take part in the blessing. The street leading to the Vatican was packed with parked Harleys along both sides of the road, about four or five bikes deep. Many decorated their motorcycles with flags, stickers with the Vatican keys or pictures of Pope Francis, CNA reports.
During Mass, the pope cautioned that "power and pleasure", among other things, lead to God being "replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death." After the blessing, the bikers along with nuns and other faithful Catholics took part in a separate pro-life parade, Associated Press reports.
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Sunday marked the 110-year anniversary of the motorcycle manufacturer that was founded in Milwaukee. The Vatican blessing and a separate parade past the Colosseum were two major events in a four-day celebration for the company in Rome, AP reports. Earlier this week, Harley-Davidson gave Pope Francis two white Harleys for the Vatican’s police force.
Despite the unusual crowd for papal Mass, Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, noted that there were probably quite a few Catholic riders in the crowd and that regardless, anyone is welcome.
"I know great people who have big bikes," Lombardi said.