Hog Heaven: A Papal Blessing for 35,000 Harley Riders at Vatican City

The bikers had gathered there as part of a 4-day celebration of the American motorcycle maker's 110th anniversary.

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Stefano Rellandini / Reuters

Pope Francis blesses a sick boy who is accompanied by a Harley-Davidson biker after Mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, June 16, 2013.

The ideals of personal freedom and unbridled adventure embraced by Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders may not seem particularly compatible with those of the Roman Catholic Church, which tends to favor self-sacrifice over self-expression. But on Sunday the two groups found common ground at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, where Pope Francis blessed the 35,000 Harley riders from around the globe who had gathered there as part of a 4-day celebration of the American motorcycle maker’s 110th anniversary.

The engine noise was so loud, it made the traditional Latin rendition of the Our Father prayer inaudible, according to BBC News. And while the Argentine leader of the Catholic Church did not address the leather-clad and bandana-wearing legion by name, he did lay his hands on a disabled boy accompanied by a Harley-Davidson motorcyclist. In a show of support for the 266th Pope, some riders decorated their bikes with flags imprinted with Francis’ smiling face.

On Wednesday, Harley-Davidson gave Pope Francis two white Harleys to use in the Vatican police force. Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the papal Mass is welcome to all, telling the Associated Press, “I know great people who have big bikes.”

Here are more photos from the high-spirited gathering:


Stefano Rellandini / Reuters

Pope Francis blesses the Harley Davidson bikers from his Popemobile before the start of a mass outside Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, June 16, 2013.