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article imagePope Francis blesses thousands of Harley Davidson bikers in Rome

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jun 17, 2013 in Technology
Rome - Thousands of tattooed Harley Davidson bike riders in leather boots and vests were part of a large congregation that Pope Francis blessed at an open air mass in St Peter's Square on Sunday.
The riders mixed with but stood out among a crowd of thousands who congregated at a mass for Evangelium Vitae Day at St. Peter's Square.
Pope Francis, riding to St. Peter's Square for the mass in his popemobile, blessed the Harley Davidson bikes and their riders gathered along the broad Via della Conciliazione, that leads to the Vatican. According to the Guardian, the bikers lifted their arms to greet the pontiff as he was driven up the avenue past parked Harley Davidsons and their riders. Choral music mixed with the rumbling and revving of engines as he blessed the bikers. According to the Vatican Radio, "The roar of [hundreds of] Harley Davidsons enveloped the Vatican... as bikers marked the 110th anniversary of the US motors founding."
The mass was attended by biking enthusiasts in Harley vests. The Associated Press (AP) notes "something a bit incongruous about the Harley crowd — known for its 'Freedom' motto, outlaw image and adventuresome spirit — taking part in a solemn papal Mass to commemorate a 1995 encyclical on the inviolability of human life."
Evangelium Vitae, according to AP, is a "roadmap of the church's teaching against abortion, euthanasia and murder." The contrast with Harley's advertising slogan for its 2013 bike collection "Live life on your own terms. More than 30 ways to defy the status quo" couldn't offer a sharper contrast.
AFP reports that in a homily he delivered during the mass, the pope warned of people seeking "power and pleasure" and replacing God with "fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death."
It is not certain that Harley Davidson fans were listening.
He also offered prayers "for every human life, especially the most fragile, defenseless and threatened."
The Guardian reports that Emmanuele Jaconi, an Italian biker, said there was nothing strange about the curious mix of bikers, nuns and faithful attending the anti-abortion mass. He said: "Just because we're motorcyclists doesn't mean we're not Catholics."
A biker, Marcel Taschenhofer, from Rostock in northern Germany, however, said he was a "little disappointed" that he was not able to ride his bike into St Peter's Square. He added: "It's just a hobby. We like to drive our bikes around, and if the pope thinks it's good then all the better."
Vatican spokesman Reverend Federico Lombardi, acknowledged that quite a few of the riders were Catholics, and dropped the hint that everyone is welcome to a papal Mass. He said: "I know great people who have big bikes."
At St. Peter's Square, the pope waved to faithfuls and after the mass he blessed a sick boy who was with a Harley Davidson rider.
The riders were in Rome for a four-day celebration of the 110th anniversary of the Harley Davidson company. Observers note that the Wisconsin-based company scored a major marketing victory with what some would consider papal endorsement of a brand associated with a lifestyle not exactly in line with church teaching and policy.
On Wednesday, Harley Davidson representatives met the pope. He accepted two Harley Davidson bikes and a jacket the representatives presented. He greeted Harley fans during his Sunday Angelus prayer, saying: "I greet the many participants in the Harley-Davidson motorcycle assembly."
AFP reports that about 35,000 bikers gathered in Rome over the weekend for rock concerts and street parades.
But not everybody was happy about the presence of the bikers in Rome, according to the Daily Mail. Many residents complained about the heavy traffic and noise generated by thousands of Harley Davidsons on parade.
The festivities were marred by an accident on Saturday involving two cars and six bikes in which eight bikers were seriously injured, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. A Swiss biking couple died in a crash on Wednesday.
The Daily Mail reports that the consumer association Codacons, criticized the pope for giving the Harley Davidson company free publicity. It said it would file a complaint against event organizers, presumably for the nuisance to the city and its residents. Codacons said in a statement: "Since it was a marketing event, the pontiff would have done well to avoid giving free advertising to a well known brand, especially considering the damage done to the city and its inhabitants."
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