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2016-01-21 10:04

POPE'S FIAT UP FOR SALE: One of two Fiats used by Pope Francis will be up for auction at the 2016 Philadelphia Auto Show on January 29. Image: AFP / Jose Luis Magana

New York - It was the tiny car that whisked Pope Francis around Philadelphia and wowed Americans reared on gas-guzzling automobiles. Now it's up for auction.

At least one of two Fiat 500Ls, custom-made for the pope's visit to Philadelphia and fitted with Secret Service license plates, goes on sale January 29, kicking off the this year's Philadelphia Auto Show.

The second Fiat, which Catholic authorities said they may also sell at the same auction, will go on public display at the auto show which runs from January 30 to February 7.

Benefiting charity

The Max Spann Real Estate and Auction Company has valued the car at $30 000 but declined Wednesday to estimate what price it might fetch on the night.

Buyers can bid in person and online for the sale and the proceeds will benefit four charities run by the archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Max Spann, president of the auction company, told AFP: "I think there's going to be tremendous interest.

"Being that it was used by the pope, there are intangibles. So it's really hard to predict" what price it will fetch."

Donated to the church

Fiat Chrysler made two Fiat 500Ls for the pope's use in Philadelphia and the US Secret Service provided the vehicle identification numbers, the archdiocese said. Fiat Chrysler donated the cars to the church, it added.

The pope also used models of the same vehicle in New York and Washington DC during his September 22-27 inaugural US tour, drawing massive crowds and delighting Americans with his display of simplicity.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput: "When we learned that these vehicles would be given to us, we wanted to find some way for the public to see them and answer Pope Francis' call to love and care for the poor."

Money raised by the sale of the car will go to charities run by the archdiocese that benefit the poor.

Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families Philadelphia 2015, said: "The Fiat is such an icon of Pope Francis' visit.

"The good that this auction will bring to the Catholic Charities Appeal, Mercy Hospice, Casa Del Carmen and the Archdiocesan Schools of Special Education is simply incomparable."

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