Harley-Davidson riders from all around the world thronged the Vatican on the company’s 110th anniversary, and were blessed by Pope Francis. The Pope greeted the crowd before Mass, his prayers drowned out by the roar of thousands of Harley engines. He drove through the main boulevard in a top-open jeep, blessing all the Harley-Davidson riders gathered there.
After the service was over, it was all a show of bikes and glamour and leather. Bikers donned their trademark Harley-Davidson leather vests and sat in St. Peter’s Square with the nuns and other Catholic participants who were taking part in a pro-life rally. The Pope addressed the entire gathering later, blessing them all.
The anniversary of the motorcycle giant was a grand 4-day affair, with the main events being the Vatican blessing on Sunday and a parade past the Colosseum and other important historic landmarks on Saturday. Rome was already having a very colorful day due to a gay pride march, and the Harley-Davidson parade only added to the color and gaiety.
Earlier on in the week, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin division of Harley-Davidson had given Pope Francis two white Harley-Davidsons for use by the Vatican police force.
The catch line for Harley-Davidson’s 2013 collection is ‘Live life on your own terms’. Somehow, the mass of Harley riders gathered solemnly for a papal mass seemed rather incongruous, as the Harley-Davidson brand stands for freedom, a spirit of adventure and a total outlaw image.
After the Mass, Rev. Federico Lombardi spent time interacting with a few sick and disabled gatherers in the square, including a man on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.