Pope Francis has asked to ride an open vehicle when he visits the Philippines next month, making him both “vulnerable” but more accessible to the people, the Filipino Catholic Church said Tuesday.
The government announced last month a custom-built “popemobile” would be built in coordination with Vatican security to protect him from unspecific threats during his January trip to Asia’s Catholic bastion.
However, Filipino church officials revealed Tuesday the vehicle will be open and “not bulletproof” to accommodate the demands of the visiting church leader. “What this means is our Holy Father will be very vulnerable during his visit,” said Father David Concepcion, a member of a church committee preparing for the papal visit.
Francis is to arrive in Manila from Sri Lanka on January 15 and spend an entire day on January 17 hearing mass and comforting victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban city and Palo town on the central island of Leyte. The typhoon, the strongest ever to hit land, killed or left missing 7,350 people and left millions of others homeless in November last year after it triggered tsunami-like giant waves that wiped out entire towns.
Pope Francis, who has shunned the pomp of his predecessors, said earlier this year he prefers to use open-top cars rather than the Vatican’s bulletproof “popemobile” used by previous pontiffs, which he called a “sardine can“.
“The popemobile will symbolise his desire to express his sympathy to the Filipino people and demonstrate what kind of church he wants to impart to the people,” Concepcion told a news conference.
“It will have no aircon, so he will be feeling the tropical heat. If it rains he will get soaked too,” he added. “The Holy Father wishes to be accessible. He wants the option to stop and step down onto the street anywhere.” The government has said it expects a total of six million people to turn up when the Pontiff hears mass in Tacloban and in Manila’s main outdoor park the following day.