News / Europe

Pope to Shun Bulletproof Vehicles for Mideast Trip

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, May 14, 2014.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, May 14, 2014.
Reuters
— Pope Francis is shunning bulletproof vehicles during his trip to the Middle East this month, insisting that he use a normal car and be allowed to be as close to people as possible, the Vatican said on Thursday.
 
The Vatican, briefing reporters on the trip, also confirmed that a rabbi and an Islamic leader will accompany Pope Francis on his trip to the Middle East in a gesture of the importance he attaches to inter-religious dialog.
 
Francis will visit Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Israel during the May 24-26 trip, his first as pope to the region.
 
“The pope wants an open popemobile and a normal car. The local security official took the desire of the pope into consideration,”  said chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.
 
“I don't think there was too much discussion about that,” he said, hinting that local security officials had suggested the use of bulletproof vehicles but were over-ruled.
 
Francis' predecessors were driven in bulletproof limousines on their trips, whether just around Rome or abroad. Heads of state visiting the Middle East tend to use bulletproof cars.
 
Francis instead uses a blue Ford Focus in Rome and during his trip to Brazil last July, he was driven around Rio de Janeiro in a small silver Fiat at his own request.
 
At times during that trip security broke down and police were unable to control the crowds, who surrounded the car.  Lombardi said he did not expect similar scenes in the Middle East because Catholics are a minority there.
 
Lombardi also said the Vatican was not overly concerned by threats to Christians scrawled by suspected Jewish extremists on church property in the Holy Land.
 
On Monday, “Death to Arabs and Christians and all those who hate Israel” was daubed in Hebrew on an outer column of the Office of the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame Center in East Jerusalem.
 
Francis is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Notre Dame Center, located just outside the walls of the old city, on the last day of his trip.
 
Hate crime
 
Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that Israeli security services fear that Jewish radicals might carry out a major hate crime against the Christian population or institutions to drum up media attention during the Pope's pilgrimage.
 
But Lombardi said he was not aware of any particular security concerns for any part of the trip.
 
The rabbi and Islamic leader who will be part of the official delegation are friends from Francis' days in his native Argentina, where he was archbishop of Buenos Aires before he was elected the first non-European pope in 1,300 years in March, 2013.
 
The pope invited them to make the trip with him in order to send what Lombardi called “an extremely strong and explicit signal” about the importance of inter-religious dialog in the region which has seen so much conflict.
 
Rabbi Abraham Skorka wrote a book in 2010 with the future pope on inter-faith dialog. The Muslim friend, Omar Abboud, is director of the Institute for Religious Dialog in Buenos Aires.
 
Abboud will join the delegation in Amman and make the entire trip and Skorka will join in Bethlehem, skipping the first day because it falls on the Jewish Sabbath.
 
They are expected to accompany the pope to all of his events, Lombardi said, meaning Skorka will be in the Palestinian Territories and a key Islamic site in Jerusalem, while Abboud will be at the Western Wall and the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust.
 
The trip, only the fourth visit by a pope to the Holy Land since biblical times, marks the 50th anniversary of a historic trip to the region by Pope Paul VI. Pope John Paul II visited in 2000 and Benedict XVI went in 2009.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid