Grapevine: Pope Gets a Ferrari of his Own

Pope John Paul got a Ferrari from the Italian racing team on Monday - a model of one, that is - for having what they said was the inside track on the roads of humanity.

Grapevine: Pope Gets a Ferrari of his Own

Pope John Paul got a Ferrari from the Italian racing team on Monday - a model of one, that is - for having what they said was the inside track on the roads of humanity.

Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher and the rest of the Ferrari team met the Pope in the Vatican's frescoed Clementina Hall to give him the 1:5 scale model of the car that won Ferrari both the drivers' and constructors' titles in 2004.

Ferrari President Luca Cordero di Montezemolo told the Pope the drivers, mechanics and management wanted to honour him. He said his courage and defence of human rights had put him "for the past 26 years in the pole position of the roads of humanity".

"It is the first time that one of our cars - even though it is a model - has entered the Vatican," di Montezemolo told the Pope. "We consider this the most prestigious finishing line for us. We feel like you are one of us and we thank you for the example you have given."

There was a poignant contrast between the speed represented by the model car whose real version can reach 350 kph (218 mph) and the slow movement of the 84-year-old Pope, who no longer walks and was wheeled into the room on a special chair.

But an emotional Schumacher later told reporters he found inspiration from being close to the Pope and from seeing how he copes with the debilitating effects of Parkinson's disease and severe arthritis.

"It was very special to see his force and his personality," Schumacher said. "It is something great for us to have been here and hopefully to take all the emotions into the future for us and transmit it into motivation and obviously success as well."

F1 team boss Jean Todt said he was moved "to silence by the energy, simplicity and humility" the Pope manages to relay despite his illnesses. Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, Schumacher's teammate and a devout Catholic, brought a picture of his family and asked the Pope to bless it.

"This is something you dream of when you are a kid and think it's impossible ... but now it has come true," Barrichello said.

In his address the Pope, who rode in a real Ferrari when he visited the carmaker's plant in 1988, told the group sports was important for all of society and could spread values such as solidarity among peoples and nations.

Todt, whose father was a Jewish refugee from the Pope's native Poland, said Ferrari would put a special edition of one of its cars up for auction in May and give the proceeds to charity in the Pope's honour.

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