BANGKOK — A locally produced Nissan will serve as a vehicle for the head of the Catholic Church when he visits the faithful in Thailand later this month.
In line with security protocols applied in other papal visits, the open-air ‘popemobile’ for Pope Francis’ trip to the kingdom on Nov. 20 to 23 will not feature bulletproof glass. A representative for Thailand’s Catholic mission said he sacrificed safety for the sake of proximity with the people.
“Yes, it’s dangerous, but he doesn’t want it because then he wouldn’t be close to the people who want to meet him,” Valith Saengthong, an official at the Catholic Social Communications of Thailand, said by phone Monday.
Valith said the Pope would still be protected by security details from local police and Pontifical Swiss Guard, albeit without their traditional gaudy uniforms.
In a June 2014 interview with Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, the Pope said that bulletproof glass is akin to a “sardine can” that bars him from people.
“It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose,” he said.
The vehicle will bear Vatican City’s registration plate “SCV 1,” an abbreviation of the Latin “Status Civitatis Vaticanae” (Vatican City State). Popemobiles were made bulletproof only after the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.
Official merch for the papal visit also went on sale Monday.
Correction: An earlier of this article incorrectly described the Popemobile as an electric-powered car. In fact, Nissan Thailand says it is powered by diesel.