As Pope Francis travels around Washington, D.C., and New York City today and tomorrow, one thing is conspicuously missing—the armored popemobile. Since his election in 2013, the Pontiff has insisted on riding in open-air vehicles, shunning the traditional-style popemobile that features security glazing in favor of getting closer to his followers.
Today he was seen riding around Washington, D.C., in a specially equipped Jeep Wrangler—without bullet-resistant glass.
When he arrived in Maryland on Tuesday, the Pontiff traveled to Washington, D.C., in a charcoal gray Fiat 500L with the windows down.
“For 85 years, popemobiles have been carrying popes through large crowds, making it easier for more people to see the leader of the Catholic Church in person,” according to a report in USA Today. “The vehicles have gone through numerous iterations as the Vatican has tried to balance safety, accessibility, spontaneity and technological innovation.”
In 1930, Pope Pius XI was presented with a luxury car called a Nurburg 460 from Mercedes-Benz. While it looked like a traditional four-door sedan, it was equipped with armored plates.
Bullet-resistant glass was introduced into the mix in 1981 after Pope John Paul II was shot four times while leaning out of an open Fiat in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Francis has reportedly likened the traditional mode of transportation to a “sardine can.”
The Pontiff was presented with a special-equipped Mercedes-Benz on his first papal trip to Brazil. It had open sides.
He has since also used a special-equipped Hyundai, Kia, and gets around the Vatican in a Ford Focus.
“I know that something could happen to me, but it’s in the hands of God,” he reportedly told Spanish newspapers.