Pope Francis Trades Ferrari for Kia, Takes Train to Be Closer to the People

That's why they call him 'the people's pope.'

(Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Aug 18, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Nicole Pasulka is a writer and reporter who lives in New York City. She has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and the New York Observer.

When Pope Francis departed from South Korea on Monday, it marked the end of the first papal visit to the country in 25 years—and a remarkable first impression as a pope who rejects finery for a folksy approach.

In the past, popes have tended to travel luxuriously—as in, waving-from-the-back-of-a-cherry-red-Ferrari-convertible levels of luxury. But Francis, who publicly criticized the "spiritual cancer" of materialism while in South Korea and has been encouraging humility, charity, and tolerance, made news when he left the airport in a more humble ride—a Kia Soul.

Pope Francis is seen in his popemobile as South Korean President Park Geun-hye (center) watches his arrival at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam on Aug. 14. (Photo: Ahn Young-joon/Reuters)

Known as "the people's pope," Francis is trying to buck a more-than-thousand-year-old trend of papal excess. He has turned down the expensive robes, cars, apartments, and bling in favor of more modest accommodations.

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” Francis said last year.

He has also criticized trickle-down economics, free-market capitalism, and consumerism.

So, what's he leaving behind? Here's a look at some examples of the papal excess Francis has rejected:

John Paul II greeted crowds in a Ferrari:

Pope John Paul II in a Ferrari Mondial Cabrio waves to the crowd as he "did a lap" on the Ferrari test track in Maranello, Italy, on June 4, 1988. (Luciano Mellace/Reuters)

Benedict had the chopper:

Pope Benedict XVI arrives by helicopter at the papal summer residence at Castelgandolfo, south of Rome, on Feb. 28, 2013. (Photo: Osservatore Romano/Reuters)

The president of South Korean had arranged for a helicopter to transport Francis from Seoul to Daejeon, but ABC News reported that he opted to take a bullet train to be "in more touch with the people."

Francis has also toned down his look. Here Benedict wears a mozzetta, a symbol of authority and universal sovereignty. Francis has rejected the garment, saying, "I'd prefer not to," when a papal master of ceremonies tried to place it on him last year.

A newly elected Pope Francis (top) and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI (bottom). (Photo: Dylan Martinez/Max Rossi/Reuters)

Benedict XVI was known for his red Prada slippers, but nothing says "people's pope" (or "arch support") better than Francis' humble black sneakers.

Pope Francis (top) as he conducts a general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on March 16, 2013, and the red shoes of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI (bottom), as he arrives at Edinburgh Airport in Scotland on Sept. 16, 2010. (Photo: Max Rossi/Andrew Milligan/Reuters)

“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” he wrote in a papacy teaching document.

While Francis has reportedly shed the mozzetta, the helicopter, and the Ferrari, he's still got the ring.

The hand of Pope Francis is seen as he conducts blessings during a weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, on April 3, 2013. (Photo: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters)