World

Pope shuns presidential guard escort for Italy state visit, takes simple Ford Focus instead

  • Pope Francis  is welcomed by Italian president Giorgio Napolitano as he arrives for an official visit at the Quirinale Presidential palace in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    Pope Francis is welcomed by Italian president Giorgio Napolitano as he arrives for an official visit at the Quirinale Presidential palace in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis  is welcomed by Italian president Giorgio Napolitano as he arrives for an official visit at Quirinale Presidential palace in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    Pope Francis is welcomed by Italian president Giorgio Napolitano as he arrives for an official visit at Quirinale Presidential palace in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

  • President Giorgio Napolitano, right, shows Pope Francis the Vatican flag waving on the top of the Quirinale presidential palace  in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    President Giorgio Napolitano, right, shows Pope Francis the Vatican flag waving on the top of the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis has made his first state visit to the Italian president, a traditionally pomp-filled ceremony that the pontiff defused by declining a presidential guard escort and traveling in his own Ford Focus instead.

Francis' small motorcade pulled up quietly Thursday to the Quirinale Palace without the blaring of sirens that typically accompanies diplomats and politicians cruising through central Rome. Once inside, Francis walked slowly by the side of President Giorgio Napolitano past the honor guard standing at attention.

The traditional visit of a new pope to the Quirinale Palace, the onetime summer residence of the papacy, is largely ceremonial in nature, though it does allow for the Vatican's diplomatic brass to hold official meetings with the Italian political establishment.