We’ve talked about Pope Francis’ awesome dismissal of the posh, bullet-proof Mercedes’ of his predecessor with my new favorite Pope-quote: “A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.” What we haven’t talked too much about, however, is the man who gave Pope Francis his “new” Popemobile. That 190,000-mile Renault 4 was donated to the Pope by Father Renzo Zocca. We really should have paid more attention to the man, too … because it appears His Holiness’ new/old Renault is even more awesome than we first thought: it runs on biofuel.
That, and Zocca’s kind of a badass. He’s pushing 70 now, but 25 years ago Zacco felt a calling to minister on the margins of society in one of Verona’s tough, working-class neighborhoods. He rented out a flat and offered Mass in a shed. In his off-time, it’s reported that “Father Renzo (Zocca) fought barehanded against drug dealers who were ruining the lives of the younger members of his flock and sent him death threats … even after being stabbed.” In 1985, the team unexpectedly won the Italian championships, and the club’s vice president gave Zocca a celebratory gift: the Renault 4 (making it probably not a 1989 model, as had been previously reported).
With a car, Zocca had the ability to branch out his ministry. After assessing the needs of Verona’s impoverished suburbs, Zocca founded the social cooperative Àncora in 1985. To this day, Àncora offers assistance and jobs for those in need. When he heard Pope Francis looking for reliable, but humble machine, Zocca – facing retirement – knew what to do. “I wanted to make him a gift,” he told la Famiglia Cristiana. “A gift that would witness my experience. And what better gift than my R4?” Zocca’s passionate plea that Francis accept the car played to the deep significance the Renault held to Zocca’s parish. This isn’t just any car, but a tool that had served countless people on the margins, and spoke to sustaining those people into the future. This is where it was reported that Zocca had driven most of the R4’s 190,000 miles on sustainable biofuel, which Zocca says fits with “Francis’ environmental activism”.
So, Zocca is basically an Italian Batman (dark, flowy clothes + fistfights with petty criminals + taking on disenfranchised youth) with a biofuel Renault that almost perfectly embodies everything we love about cars here at Gas 2. Except, you know, it’s slow. Maybe someone will donate a track-day version next time.