Harley-Davidson is in Italy this week, gearing up for the company’s 110th Anniversary event that’s being held in Rome in June 2013. Apparently part of the pre-party planning involved having Pope Benedict XVI bless two fuel tanks today, with brand ambassador Willie G. Davidson present. This is of course a practice run for the full-bike blessing that will take place next year in St. Peter’s square.

We were going to write a tongue-in-cheek article about how we have never seen a company get as excited about a 110th anniversary celebration (though, there should be some sort of record for making the same motorcycle for that long of a time period), and maybe lace it with some choice idealogical wordplay, but honestly the press release from Harley-Davidson provides ample fodder for the cynics without our help. And here we thought the Pope was more of a Ducati guy

Press Release from Harley-Davidson:

ROME, ITALY – October 3, 2012 – Next June, tens of thousands of Harley-Davidson riders and fans from around the globe are expected to make their way to Italy’s capital city to celebrate Harley-Davidson’s 110th Anniversary and the shared passion for freedom that unites riders everywhere.

Today, Pope Benedict XVI along with Willie G. Davidson, grandson of one of Harley-Davidson’s founders and his son, Bill Davidson, Vice President of the Harley-Davidson Museum, launched the countdown to Harley-Davidson’s 110th Anniversary event in Rome, June 13-16, 2013, by presenting two commemorative motorcycle gas tanks to the Pope for a blessing. The tanks will be signed by Pope Benedict, Willie G. and Bill, and mounted on two motorcycles – one will return to the company’s hometown of Milwaukee, and displayed at the Harley-Davidson Museum, while the other will be auctioned to support the Good Samaritan Foundation.

“The 110th Anniversary Celebration will be a rockin’ party and so much more,” said Ken Ostermann, Harley-Davidson’s General Manager of International Marketing Operations. “Along with next year’s 110th Anniversary events around the world, the event in Rome is truly the most epic way we can show our thanks for the 110 years of riding and fun our passionate fans have given Harley-Davidson.”

Highlights of Harley-Davidson’s 110th Anniversary Celebration in Rome next year include a party in the Port of Ostia, a parade through the heart of Rome, two headlining concerts at Stadio Olimpico and a papal bike blessing at St. Peter’s Square.

“We’re anticipating next year’s celebration in Rome to be one of the largest events we’ve ever held outside the U.S.,” said Ostermann. “That is a strong testament to our continued global transformation as we respond to our growing fan base all over the world.”

Source: Harley-Davidson

  • Richard Gozinya

    So does this mean they’ve finally abandoned the “Bad ass, rugged individualist, tough guy” image? Or is having the pope bless those fuel tanks an effort to fully tap into the geriatric demographic? A foreshadowing of the Harley badged mobility scooter? Maybe they’ll get Phyllis Schlaffly to be their new spokesmodel.

  • pooch

    Did Del Torchio kiss his ring ? Is that some sort of Papal leather tank cover being held by the dude in the background ? And I think someone is nailed up on that cross behind them…

    Never underestimate the power of ass-kissing and the Catholic Church.

  • JW

    Is this what HD resorts to these days, that some sort of heavenly blessing will somehow cover over the mess they are in. funny how so much of what they sell is made in China yet they tout the made in USA BS . Ever been in a HD showroom? Yet the HD rider will not wave to metric rider because the metric is not USA made, yet the HD rider buys china jacket, boots, gloves, goggles, chaps, wall clocks, mirrors, pillows, bed spreads, beer, cigs, mugs, lighters, shirts, pipes, bandanas, with tat art designed in china, Japan tires forks, engine engineering and shocks. The most dysfunctional biker culture in the world. The HD brand is a circus in a town near you..

  • smiler

    It is an attempt by Harley to stop them dripping holy water…….

  • Brij

    So a brand which touts the “Made in America” slogan, decides to have its 110th anniversary celebration in “Rome”? Is this Harley’s way of saying “screw you Americans?” . 110 years of robbing Americans, by selling them overpriced pieces of junk.. But then again, i guess harley owners who spends insane amounts of money on the harley bling, wont mind ponying up cash to pay for that flight ticket to Rome to join in on the celebrations!!

  • Jesus

    I disapprove of this!

  • pooch

    @Jesus – forgive them, for they not what they do.

    @JW – you hit the nail on the head describing HD as the most dysfunctional biker culture in the world. And it’s not just in America that lack of wave or nod to metrics happen, here in Australia you wont get a nod or a wave from a Harley Rider either. You have to wonder why HD riders think they are above friendliness and biker-spirit on the roads, unless you’re also riding a Harley ? Overpriced, underpowered, go balance on your tailbone and vibrate for hours. You’re an amusing bunch of Gay Pirates. Oh and Good luck with the back operations you’ll all need in your twilight years, boys and girls. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

  • pooch

    Damn the lack of edit facility, Jensen. I stuffed up my Jesus quote.

  • JoeD

    Overpriced. You paid how much for that two cylinder paint shaker? Over-rated. Made in America from outsourced parts. Underpowered. Let’s have a racing series just for our wimpy a$$ XR because a 600cc whatever can do every thing better.

  • db

    Perhaps this is a precursor to the resurrection of another classic American brand a la Excelsior Henderson (but with divine help): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope-Toledo

  • Bill

    Such vitriol from so many people against one manufacturer. Bike blessings are very common not just to HD. I doubt this is the only celebration they will have, they are a world brand, made in America. Owning 56% of the large displacement market year after year means they do something right.

  • Starmag

    This is awful. There was a time I had some respect for Harley. This pope was directly responsible for covering up the pedophlia scandal under the previous pope. He should be in jail, not “blessing” Harleys in some cynical ad stunt. Harley on bended knee to this criminal makes me barf.

  • Shawn

    Regardless of what I think of the product itself (which isn’t highly, to be honest) I really don’t understand what H-D, 110th anniversary, Rome, and the Catholic church have in common. Does this mean that H-D doesn’t want protestants, Athiests, Agnotsics, Hindus, Muslims, Taoists, Rastafarians, Mormons, etc, etc, etc riding their bikes? No great I’m sure, but still!

  • Shawn

    “No great loss I’m sure” rather

  • irksome

    So this is what they do when they run out of chrome options and ideas for “factory customizing”?

    It’s official: HD has jumped the shark.

  • JW

    @ Jesus

    Thank you

  • Faust

    Really? And nobody is going to mention the fact that the Vatican Police ride Ducatis, not some POS Harleys? Maybe the pope wasn’t blessing the tanks, maybe he was instead absolving them for the sin of robbing people with high priced low quality bikes. I wonder how many hail marys HD would have to say to make up for sucking so bad.

  • frogy6

    Both failing institutions that refuse to change, acknowledge or use modern ideas trying to prop themselves up.

  • Damo


    100% Correct Sir!

  • Perhaps this will cut down on their propensity to detonate on impact, the lawyers at HD can only hope. :-)

  • jeram

    When this tank goes onto a HD with ape hanger/high bars it will be the closest thing to feeling like your being strung up on the cross. Arms splayed out, sharp pains in your hands from the abominable clutch…

    but I also find it also ironic because I though the catholic church denies the existence of dinosaurs, yet here they are blessing one that’s right in front of them.

  • JoeD

    A person I know paid almost 30K for one new a couple of months ago. He had to wait over two hours while the oil seal at the starter was replaced before it ever left the lot. THIS is quality engineering? Perhaps we should discuss the Rider’s Edge program. 300 clams to be walked through the boutique while being told what to wear to what funcion. Meet your dealership staff. What does that have to do with safe riding practices? Why did tuition go up and state funds be removed for the local community colleges that teach the MSF courses? Who would pay more to HD for something taught elsewhere for half the cost? And done properly. What brand gets the most free adverts? What style bike is used in commercials? I am a motorcyclist, not a biker.

  • JW

    Pain does have a way of bringing one to the truth, seems we all have been pained by HD in some way or another..

    Any moron can drop money down on the brand. A wise enthusiast knows his money is better spent elsewhere