The Many Popemobiles Of Pope Francis

by Lauren Barbato

Pope Francis has been getting a reputation as a troublemaker lately. The Argentinian pope has strayed from his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI on a number of issues, igniting concerns among conservative Catholics. The rule-breaking pope has just gotten a bit more radical: Pope Francis ditches the popemobile because he hates everything about it. The specially designed vehicle is enclosed by bulletproof glass — an addition that was made after the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981. But for Francis, it's just a nuisance.

"It's true that anything could happen, but let's face it, at my age I don't have much to lose," Francis told the Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia on Friday. "I know that something could happen to me, but it's in the hands of God."

Francis added that the small, walled-off vehicle makes him feel like he's in a "sardine can." So, what does the radical, I-Make-My-Own-Travel-Decisions pope use as transportation instead? Well, the Holy See has had a few options.

Last September, Francis raced around Vatican City in a white 1984 Renault 4 economy car that was given to him by his friend, a northern Italian priest. The car had about 186,000 miles on it — far more than his fancy Mercedes-Benz popemobile. Pope Benedict XVI mostly used the Mercedes-Benz vehicle, but he was also given two electric-powered, custom-made Renault vans during his papacy.

The gift arrived a few months after Francis petitioned priests to eschew their expensive cars for more cost-effective ones. According to Reuters, the pope previously drove a Renault while living in Argentina, so he was excited to drive it around the Vatican.

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But the Renault is not the pope's only set of wheels. During a July 2013 trip to Brazil, Francis chose to ride in a silver Fiat. The car ended up being mobbed by thousands of well-wishers after taking a wrong turn, The Associated Press reported. Admirers of the pope were allegedly shoving their hands into the Fiat's open windows. Francis, however, seemed unfazed as he continued to wave back.

Francis also frequently uses a five-year-old Ford Focus hatchback, a car he chose for himself last summer. The modest price of the Ford fits in well with the pope's message on luxury vehicles to clergy:

It hurts me when I see a priest or nun with the latest-model car. You can’t do this. A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but, please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.

However, it's not like Pope Francis doesn't ride in style. He does use a Mercedes-Benz popemobile while touring St. Peter's Square, but his version is not enclosed with bulletproof glass. In fact, it's open on all sides, bringing the Holy Father much closer to the people.

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The first official popemobile was commissioned in 1930 for Pope Pius XI. It was, of course, a Daimler-Benz — the predecessor of Mercedes-Benz. The luxury car manufacturer has kept close times with the Vatican since then, but only time will tell if Mercedes-Benz will continue to be the ultimate popemobile provider with social justice-minded Francis at the head of the Catholic Church.