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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid