ROME (AP) — Pope Francis shunned a presidential guard escort for his first state visit to the Italian president Thursday in yet another breach of protocol and security, even though some people have expressed concerns for his safety as he ramps up his reform of the Vatican.
Francis' simple blue Ford Focus and the small Vatican motorcade pulled up quietly to the Quirinale Palace without the blaring of sirens that typically accompanies politicians and foreign dignitaries cruising through central Rome.
Once inside the onetime summer residence of popes, Francis walked slowly with President Giorgio Napolitano past the honor guard and then greeted staff members and their children, further evidence of a more casual approach to official duties by the Argentine "slum pope."
Francis' shunning of the trappings of the papacy — including its security apparatus — has defined his papacy so far. But his desire to be close to his flock and his aim to curb corruption and waste in the Vatican have raised fresh security fears, beyond the occasional mobbing of his open car by overly enthusiastic pilgrims.
A leading anti-Mafia prosecutor, Nicola Gratteri, this week raised the alarm that Francis' financial house-cleaning might make him a target for Italy's mob, though he provided no evidence that such a threat existed or that the mob was planning a hit.
Just last week, Francis denounced parents who feed their children the "unclean bread" earned through bribes and corruption, saying dishonest work deprives parents and their children of dignity.