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Pope blesses thousands of Harley riders

Harley-Davidson bikers with an image of Pope Francis rode in Rome near the Vatican. Motorcycle enthusiasts celebrated the 110th anniversary of the company in Rome.

Guido Montani/European Pressphoto Agency

Harley-Davidson bikers with an image of Pope Francis rode in Rome near the Vatican. Motorcycle enthusiasts celebrated the 110th anniversary of the company in Rome.

VATICAN CITY — Biker culture came to the Vatican on Sunday as Pope Francis blessed thousands of Harley-Davidsons and their riders celebrating the manufacturer’s 110th anniversary with a loud parade and plenty of leather.

Thundering Harley engines nearly drowned out the Latin recitation of the ‘‘Our Father’’ prayer that accompanied Francis as he greeted the crowd before Mass. Standing in his open-top jeep, Francis drove up the main boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square, blessing the thousands of people in what was a giant Harley parking lot.

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Once the service got underway, bikers in their trademark leather Harley vests sat in the square alongside nuns and tens of thousands of faithful Catholics taking part in an unrelated, two-day antiabortion rally.

Francis addressed them both afterward, giving a blessing to the ‘‘numerous participants’’ of the Harley gathering.

Tens of thousands of Harley owners from around the world descended on Rome for the four-day anniversary of the American manufacturer.

The main events were Sunday’s Vatican blessing and a parade Saturday past the Colosseum and other historic landmarks — adding color, traffic, and noise to a colorful day in downtown Rome, because of a gay pride march. Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that six bikes were involved in a pileup Saturday on the main ring road around the capital, while a Swiss biking couple were killed in a highway crash on Wednesday.

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