Pope Francis shuns bullet-proof vehicles for Holy Land visit

Pope Francis doesn’t want to use bullet-proof vehicles during his upcoming visit to the Holy Land.

Rather, the Pope wants to travel by an ordinary car during his visit from May 24-26.

Most heads of state use bullet-proof transport in the Middle East.

Fears about security for the pontiff have been rising in Israel amid concerns that Francis’s pilgrimage could be disrupted by extremists.

Following a series of threats to Christians and the desecration of holy sites, Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarch warned of a “wave of extremist terror” in Israel.

Patriarch Fouad Twal said that a wave of fanaticism and intimidation against Christians was “poisoning” the festive spirit in the city in the run-up to the historic visit.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said: “The Pope wants an open popemobile and a normal car.”

“The local security officials took the wishes of the Pope into consideration. I don’t think there was too much discussion about that,” the Jesuit said.

Previous pontiffs were driven in bullet-proof limousines on trips, after the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. 

Security broke down and police were unable to control crowds in Brazil last year when Francis was driven around Rio de Janeiro in a small silver Fiat, at his own request.

But Fr Lombardi said he did not expect similar scenes in the Middle East because Catholics are a minority there.

The Pope has invited a Muslim and a rabbi to join him on the visit to the Holy Land in what the Vatican called “an absolute first”.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud are long time friends from Francis’s days as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Francis wanted to show that it was “normal” to have friends from other faiths, Fr Lombardi said.

The Vatican has emphasised that the Pope’s main purpose on the trip is to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew are scheduled meet four times during the pope’s visit.

This comes 50 years after the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, which was a landmark opening in ecumenical dialogue.


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