Pope Francis now has his own mini popemobile after getting a good deal on a used car with 186,000 miles on it.
And he plans to drive it himself.
Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, says Francis accepted the 1984 Renault 4, which was donated by a priest in northern Italy who used it to visit poor parishioners. The four-door car, in papal white, is manual shift and has a new engine. Benedettini told The AP on Wednesday: "The pope intends to drive it."
The classic car has a 30-horse power engine and deck-chair-style seats, according to Italian Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana. It was fully checked and readied by a mechanic who accompanied the priest to Rome for the occasion.
The Pope’s selection of a used car is in line with his message of austerity and humility, which he has brought to the Vatican from Day 1 when he offered to pay for his hotel accommodations during his first night as Pope. He has scolded religious clergy for driving luxury vehicles and in July has asked them to opt for more "humble vehicles."
The donor, the Rev. Renzo Zocca, 69, says he took Pope Francis for a short drive in the car at the Vatican on Saturday and that the pope told him he knows how to drive it. Zocca said he thinks Francis will use it for short commutes on Vatican grounds.
"The security personnel next to me were very concerned because they understood that from now on he would be tooling around the Vatican in my car," Zocca told the weekly.
Zocca wrote a letter to the pope in July and on August 10th he received a 35-minute phone call from his holiness.
"I could not answer...it took my breath away, I did not know what to say," Zocca told the Italian newspaper.
The priest told the pope about his pastoral work on the outskirts of town with the poor and then he offered the R4 as a gift.
"I began to reflect on the words of Francis. Those who said that the renewal of the Church departed from the suburbs," Rocca said. "And so I wrote him a letter asking to meet him. I wanted to tell my experience. But I wanted to make him a gift. A gift that would witness my experience. And what better gift could be my R4 ?
The pope reportedly responded, "Is it not better to give it to the poor?"
Zocca said, "I replied that the car had already given so much to the poor."
Once the pope had been reassured that Zocca had another car on hand, he flipped through his diary and together they chose a date to meet on Vatican grounds.
At the meeting on Saturday, Zocca gave the pope the keys to the car. Pope Francis got behind the wheel and told the priest that he had once owned an R4 and it never let him down. Zocca said as the Pope rode around in the car, he tried to make sure security was at ease.
But Zocca said, "I left some snow chains in the trunk. You never know."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.