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ROME – 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.