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Francis’ popemobile could be a jeepney

/ 08:55 AM November 28, 2014
Pope Francis. AP FILE PHOTO

Pope Francis. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines will custom-build a “popemobile” for Pope Francis to travel in during his visit to the fervently Catholic nation in January, organizers said on Thursday.

“He is our visitor and we can’t let anything bad happen to him,” the government’s chief protocol officer Marciano Paynor said, adding however that there were “no specific threats.”

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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.”

“It is true something could happen to me but let’s be realistic, at my age I do not have much to lose,” he said in June, adding that the popemobile made it hard to connect with the faithful.

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Paynor declined to give the specifications of the vehicle to be used in the Philippines for security reasons but said the pope might opt for an open car for some appearances.

A total of six million people are expected to turn up when the Pontiff hears mass in the city of Tacloban, ravaged by last year’s Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), on Jan. 17 and in Manila’s Rizal Park the following day, he said.

Keeping it simple

“The Pope requested that it be kept simple. He wants nothing flamboyant,” said Father Antonio Pascual from the organizing committee.

The popemobile was being designed in coordination with Vatican security, said presidential communications undersecretary Jess Yu, another member of the organizing committee.

“Definitely, the Pope will be visible to the public [from the vehicle],” Yu said.

In August, comments by the preparatory committee sparked speculation that the Pope could be transported in a jeepney—a common form of cheap public transport, often decorated with colorful religious artwork, evolved from the jeep.

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However officials would not confirm the speculation on Thursday.

The last pope to visit the Philippines, John Paul II, rode a white popemobile in 1995, where he waved to crowds from a glass, bulletproof cage at the back of the vehicle. Authorities later uncovered an alleged plot by al-Qaida to assassinate John Paul while he was in Manila.

The bulletproof popemobile was first introduced after the attempted assassination of John Paul in 1981.

Welcome by orphans

Two flower-bearing orphans will welcome Francis when he arrives at Manila airport from Colombo at dusk on Jan. 15, organizers said.

Pope Francis will then spend the entire day on Jan. 17 hearing Mass and comforting victims of Yolanda in Tacloban and Palo town.

Yolanda, the strongest storm to hit land, left over 7,300 people dead or missing in November last year after it triggered tsunami-like storm surges that wiped out entire towns.

One year after the disaster, survivors are mired in deeper poverty as they struggle to rebuild their lives.   AFP

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TAGS: Marciano Paynor, Pope Francis, Pope Mobile, popemobile, Rizal Park, Roman Catholic Church
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