The vehicle that will transport Pope Francis around Bangkok during his apostolic visit to Thailand has been unveiled as a white Nissan pickup truck. The pickup, which was manufactured at a Thai-based plant of the Japanese automaker, has been modified so that it can serve as the so-called popemobile. Powered by an electric engine, the vehicle has a white leather-bound armchair installed on the cargo bed, which is covered in red gauze on the floor. A see-through plastic roof overhead will protect Pope Francis in the case of rain. The vehicle, which was unveiled on Nov. 4 by event organizers, has three steps mounted at the rear to allow His Holiness to alight and disembark with ease. The structure has been left open on both sides because Pope Francis has requested that he be allowed to be as close to the faithful as possible en route.
Like all other popemobiles, the Nissan pickup will have the special registration plate “SCV 1,” which is short for Status Civitatis Vaticanae (Vatican City State). Pope Francis has made a point of requesting that simple, less ostentatious vehicles be used to transport him during his apostolic visits. Nissan pickups are common around Thailand as the vehicles of choice for many farmers and people living in rural areas. During his visits worldwide, Pope Francis has used a variety of modified vehicles. Some have been equipped with bulletproof glass on all four sides. That security precaution was deemed necessary after an abortive assassination attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II by a Turkish gunman at St. Peter's Square inside the Vatican in 1981. The vehicle in Bangkok will have no bulletproof glass to protect the pope, but there will be a heavy security presence along the routes he will take in the Thai capital. Pope Francis has previously labeled the bulletproof glass enclosure a “sardine can.” He has also played down concerns over his security, telling the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia
: “It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose.” The pontiff, who is widely regarded as a people’s pope, has been known to love getting up close and personal with the public during his visits to nations around the planet. It is important for him, Pope Francis stressed, “to get to know people, listen [and] expand the circle of ideas.” He added: “The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the good.”
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