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Who will make Pope Francis' Popemobile when he visits PH?

Will Pope Francis use a Popemobile or will he ditch it in favor of mingling with the crowd when he visits the country next year?

Should the Pontiff opt not to use the Popemobile, this could become a security nightmare for law enforcers.

The question cropped up yesterday following reports that an Isuzu chassis has already been ordered for the Popemobile

Gencars, Inc., an Isuzu vehicles dealership network with showrooms in Makati, San Pablo, Batangas, and Legaspi, could be one of the coachbuilders being considered to build the Popemobile for Pope Francis' upcoming visit set for Jan. 15 to 19, next year.

Gencars, besides selling and servicing Isuzu's complete line of vehicles, is also known for its custom works.

A source confirmed that Gencars has already ordered an Isuzu chassis upon which the custom vehicle could be built.

Representatives from Gencars, however, were "not authorized to confirm [nor] deny it." Instead, they requested Manila Bulletin to direct any inquiries to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The Popemobile is the informal name for motor vehicles specially designed for the Pontiff to allow him to be more visible when greeting large crowds. The term "Popemobile" was not typically used until the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Before the Popemobile, the head of the Catholic Church was carried on ceremonial throne, called the sedia gestatoria (gestatorial seat), resting on the shoulders of footmen.

Past Popemobiles

The Popemobile is typically a custom-built vehicle. It features a cab for a driver and front passenger. Behind is a space for the Pope. It varies in design from a fully enclosed bulletproof glass cube to open air, convertible-style designs.

Like presidential vehicles, the Vatican vehicle registration plates for all official state vehicles begin with the letters "SCV" (Status Civitatis Vaticanae) followed by the vehicle fleet number. The registration plate of the Popemobile has typically been "SCV 1."

Many automotive manufacturers have produced specially designed vehicles for the Pope. Ford produced a series of cars based on its presidential limousines. A custom-built 1964 Lehmann-Peterson was used by Pope Paul VI in his 1965 New York visit and was reused in 1970 in BogotAaAaAeA . Late Paul VI used a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman-Landaulet. More recently, Pope Benedict XVI in a modified Mercedes-Benz M-Class popemobile in SAaAaAeALo Paulo, Brazi

During his 1995 papal visit, Pope John Paul II rode in one manufactured by Francisco Motors Corp. based on an Anfra dropside pickup truck, modified with a bulletproof cabin. It was funded by voluntary contributions from the private sector, and had bulletproof windows, bombproof parts, and passed inspection by the Swiss Guards. When John Paul II died, this Popemobile was briefly borrowed by parish officials of the Quiapo Church to be put on display. It became a pilgrimage destination for Filipino devotees who could not afford to go to the Vatican for the pope's burial ceremonies.


The new Popemobile will be an open style vehicle with no bulletproof protection.

Popemobiles have typically been designed with bulletproof cabins since the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in 1981. He was riding an open air Fiat Popemobile.

According to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle in a September 13 Manila Bulletin, Pope Francis' Popemobile will be open.

"Even in the Vatican, he is not using a bulletproof vehicle. So it will be carried as a practice in places that he visits."

Tagle cited the recent trip of the Pontiff in South Korea where the vehicle that the latter rode was also open.

Other pontiffs in the past, Tagle said, usually didn't ride bulletproof vehicles except at the time of then pope and now Saint John Paul II.

"I think for security it was made like that (bulletproof) because of the (assassination) attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II (in 1981)," said the cardinal.

More than 3,000 policemen will be tapped to secure Pope Francis and other foreign visitors during the Pontiff's expected visit to Leyte and other parts of Eastern Visayas in January this year.

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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Nov 11, 2014
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