Pope Francis Ditches The Popemobile

Pope Francis 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.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Pinky says:

    Not news.

    “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.”

    He has never, to my knowledge, used the bulletproof glass security. Yes, he has decided this, in the same sense that Barack Obama has chosen Joe Biden as his running mate.

  2. Tyrell says:

    The best choice would be the Tesla: fast.

  3. Grewgills says:

    I think a news story came out very early in his papacy that he wouldn’t be using the popemobile. He has always been one to have more direct contact with the people. This openness is a part of the reason he is so popular with both people of faith and those without.

  4. Grewgills says:

    Can one of the down voters explain the down votes? I’m curious.

  5. Tillman says:

    Nonetheless, it’s got to have raised some security headaches for the people charged with his safety.

    I imagine anything less than a bulletproof glass container holding the person you’re supposed to protect would be a headache. I mean, otherwise, someone could just shoot ’em!

  6. Yolo Contendere says:

    @Pinky: I don’t know. Does this count? http://s1.ibtimes.com/sites/www.ibtimes.com/files/styles/v2_article_large/public/2013/07/23/pope-francis-rio.jpg

    Although given the summers in Rome, I’d think he’d want the Popemobile enclosed just for the air conditioning…

  7. Yolo Contendere says:

    @Grewgills: He has on numerous occasions declined to use the Popemobile. However, he still did occasionally use it. That’s why he says he “prefers not to use it”, not that he doesn’t use it. I don’t think he’s saying even now that he’s not going to ever use it again, so no, probably not news.

  8. Grewgills says:

    @Yolo Contendere:
    The pic you linked looks like it has open sides. If memory serves that is the car he used in Rio*. He may have used the bulletproof popemobile when there was some heightened threat, but I haven’t seen or heard of him doing so. I don’t follow him very closely, so me not knowing is hardly definitive though.

    * edit, I should have looked at link more closely. It is the non-bulletproof open sided car he used in Rio.

  9. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Grewgills: Pinky said the magic downvote word: Obama. Just a suggestion.

  10. lounsbury says:

    I think it was the illogical party-political angle brought forth.

  11. Yolo Contendere says:

    @Grewgills: Yes, but I’m betting the glass that’s there is bullet-proof. Isn’t the biggest risk a sniper firing from the front? It’s definitely not the phone booth things they’ve used before, but it’s probably designed to cut down on some risk. And actually, I think that’s the same vehicle as the one at the top of the post, just with that glass removed. Maybe he likes to tempt fate. Or maybe it doesn’t do anything for safety, so he removed it because he likes the wind in his hair.

  12. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: Makes perfect sense to me. It’d be weird if I didn’t get down-voted for that comment.

  13. @Yolo Contendere:

    Maybe he’s just realized he’s not actually being followed 24/7 by a team of elite ninjas, ready to pounce the second any minor flaw in security is presented, even if his security detail tends to act like that’s the case.