Car from Pope Francis' US visit auctioned in Philadelphia for US$82,000

Pope Francis waving as he is driven away in a Fiat 500 model after arriving in the US on Sept 22, 2015.
Pope Francis waving as he is driven away in a Fiat 500 model after arriving in the US on Sept 22, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - A tiny black Fiat 500L that carried Pope Francis through Philadelphia during his historic first visit to the United States was sold for US$82,000 (S$116,784) at an auction on Friday (Jan 30), organisers said.

The auction drew more than 19 bidders and lasted just 11 minutes. Participants competed to take home the car, described as "Pope Francis' Philly Fiat" both remotely and in-person at the Philadelphia Auto Show, church and auction officials said.

The winning bid of US$82,000 was put forward by Michael and Kate Chapman of Chapman Auto Stores and the money will benefit the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, church officials said.

The 79-year-old Pontiff chose the Fiat as a symbol of his concern for the environment and desire to put aside some of the rich trappings long associated with his office.

A new Fiat 500L starts at a list price of about US$19,000, according to the company's website.

The Fiat was one of six used during the Argentina-born Pontiff's visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia. He also used a white Jeep with open sides known as a "Popemobile"that allowed Francis to kiss babies as he passed.

Thousands of Americans, both followers of the Catholic religion and the curious, packed the streets of the three cities during Francis' September visit, during which he also addressed the United Nations and met with prisoners and homeless people.