Pope Francis has a new car. It's not bulletproof, it isn't made by Mercedes-Benz and it doesn't require that we attach the inglorious suffix "-mobile" to it. In fact, the Pope's new ride is a 1984 Renault 4 that fully lives up to the pontiff's recent urging that we drive "humble" vehicles.
Not that the Pope has shipped in the Renault to hammer home his point. The Renault was reportedly a gift from priest Fr. Renzo Zocca, who put some 190,000 miles on the odometer while tending to the needs of his flock in the northern Italian city of (fair) Verona. It was the car's noble role in working to help poor Italian Catholics that caused Zocca to offer it to Pope Francis in a letter, as the story goes.
Built and sold from the early 1960s thru the 1990s, the 4 may not be very well known in America, but Europeans in general (and the French in particular) are likely to understand just how humble a vehicle this is. More than eight million Renault 4s were built, sold in markets from Australia to South America, all utilizing engines that hovered around the 1.0-liter mark in terms of displacement.
By contrast – and there are many between this Pope and his predecessors – Pope Benedict XVI was often seen riding in BMWs, Mercedes and even grander cars, and he certainly wasn't the only one. Francis has been said to be more of a "populist" Pope than many of those who came before him, which makes the idea of his riding/driving in the Renault that much more cogent. We just hope the Vatican has a good mechanic.