Pope Francis Ditches The Popemobile
In yet another sign of the manner in which he has attempted to break from the precedents set by his predecessors, Pope Francis has decided that he will no longer use the bulletproof car that has been standard transportation for Pontiffs since the attempted assassination of John Paul II in 1981:
(CNN) – Pope Francis has told a Spanish newspaper that he prefers not to use a bulletproof Popemobile despite the dangers of an assassination attempt because it is a glass “sardine can” that walls him off from people.
“It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose,” he told Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia in an interview published Friday and reported on in English by Vatican Radio.
“I know that something could happen to me, but it’s in the hands of God.”
Since an assassination attempt on then-Pope John Paul II in 1981, the head of the Roman Catholic Church has customarily used the custom-made glass-sided Popemobile when in public.
But Francis has taken his own approach to transport since assuming the papacy last year — creating a headache for those tasked with ensuring his security.
On a trip to Brazil, he climbed into a silver hatchback Fiat for the drive from the airport to downtown Rio de Janeiro. Along the route, the vehicle became pinned between a bus and a crush of well-wishers who were reaching into the car to touch the Pope. Security was stepped up after that incident.
He’s also used an open-topped vehicle, rather than the enclosed, bulletproof version preferred by Benedict, for tours through crowds of the faithful in St. Peter’s Square.
The Pope’s recent trip to the Holy Land, during which he made stops in Jordan, the West Bank and Jerusalem, is likely to have posed additional significant security challenges.
But he sees being able to speak with and meet people directly as a key part of his pastoral role as pontiff.
Over the past year or so that he’s been Pope, it’s been common for Francis to stop the open top vehicle as it makes its way around St. Peter’s Square during his traditional Wednesday afternoon public appearance so this isn’t an entirely surprising development. Nonetheless, it’s got to have raised some security headaches for the people charged with his safety.