The photo was as popular as the famous snapshot of the Pope boarding the flight to Rio de Janeiro carrying his own hand luggage. Last Saturday afternoon (7 September) Francis was photographed getting into an old white Renault 4. A new poor style Popemobile? Catholic weekly magazine Famiglia Cristiana revealed why the snapshot of Bergoglio getting into the Renault was taken.
The car in questioni s a 1984 Renault 4, with Italian registration plate Verona 779684. “The great thing is that that car has a 300-kilometre long history of charitable journeys on the clock,” the magazine wrote. The car belonged to Fr. Renzo Zocca, the parish priest of Santa Lucia di Pescantina in the northern Italian city of Verona. “It had been sitting in a garage looking slightly battered, even thug the priest had had it checked and certified as a vintage car. Fr. Renzo, who turns 70 in November, has worked as a periphery parish priest, founder of Italian social cooperative Àncora, giving many people jobs and assistance. His periphery was the working class neighbourhood of Saval in Verona, where he was parish priest in the 80’s.”
Fr. Renzo fought barehanded against drug dealers who were ruining the lives of the younger members of his flock and sent him death threats. But he carried on, even after being stabbed. “I wanted to be an embodiment of the Council in that periphery parish that was my life: I have spent 25 years there. My brother and I lived in a ninth floor council flat: I used to joke that my parsonage was the highest in the whole of Italy.” The white Renault 4 was given to him as a gift. “Fr. Renzo used that 800 cc, 30 hp economy car with the four-speed gear stick next to the steering wheel and the seats resembling deck chairs to go up and down the neighbourhood, visiting areas outside his parish as well: school summer camps, summer oratories, welcome centres, the Aosta Valley, the Dolomites, Rome and so on. By the end he had 300 thousand Km on the clock” and he has never left it out on the street…
Fr. Zocca wrote to Francis to talk to him about his experience and give him a gift: the Renault 4. Francis telephoned him at 10.19 on 10 August. They spoke for a while about the mission in the peripheries. “I told him I wanted him to have the car. “Are you sure? He asked me. “Do you really want t ogive it to me? Wouldn’t it be better to give it to the poor?” I told him that that car had already done a great deal for the poor and that it was now time it went to the Pope and in the heat of the moment I raised my voice without meaning to. “Do you have another car?”, he asked me. When I said I had a newer car, the Pope agreed.” We agreed I would deliver the Renault to him on Saturday 7 September, the day of the big peace vigil for Syria.
The fully-serviced and beautifully polished Renault 4 was transported to the Vatican on a tow truck, accompanied by Fr. Renzo and 100 pilgrims who travelled by coach. For security reasons, only 50 or so parishioners were allowed to enter the Vatican to be there when the car was given to the Pope. But Fr. Renzo told Francis about the 50 others who waited outside. “Let’s go!”, the Pope said. “Four of us got into the car: I sat in the driver’s seat, the Pope in the passengers seat and Stefano, a mechanic and my assistant Luigi sat in the back. “Go slowly, we’re in the Vatican!”, Stefano said. The speedometer read 30 Km/hr. I cannot tell you how excited those fifty parishioners were to see the R4 arrive and the Holy Father get out.”http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/papa-pope-el-papa-renault-4-27699/
Be careful, he could be driving to a parish near you.