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Pope will ride in open vehicles during Philippines visit

Pope Francis is reputed for taking a relaxed approach to security (CNS)

Pope Francis will ride in open vehicles during his trip to the Philippines, a priest involved in papal visit preparations has said.

For months, papal visit organisers had been asked about what kind of vehicles the pontiff would use during his January visit, especially after ISIS said it planned to target Pope Francis during his travels.

Father Anton Pascual said that the popemobiles Pope Francis will use will not be bulletproof and will simply have a roof.

He told Catholic News Service: “The Holy Father wants to be accessible to the people. (So) the people can see him and he can hear and be one with the people.”

Church officials said Pope Francis requested that there not be any barriers between himself and the masses.

“The Pope will be vulnerable, like the Church is vulnerable, and will be dependent upon the government and people for security and order,” Father Pascual said.

The Pope will have two popemobiles: one in Manila and one in Tacloban, on Leyte Island.

Father Pascual added that crowd control will be a “major concern” during the Pope’s one-day visit to Tacloban and nearby Palo, the area that took the brunt of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at the airport in Tacloban before going to Palo to have lunch with survivors of the typhoon and other calamities and bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor. “There is only one road passage from the airport to Palo,” said Father Pascual. “That’s why they have to perfect the place for the people and to make the road passable for the popemobile.”

In mid-December, the country’s military said President Benigno Aquino declared a longer-than-usual Christmas cease-fire with Communist rebels. It will begin on December 18 and run until January 19, the day the Pope leaves the Philippines.

Apart from a security contingent made up of a special police task force and the military, the presidential security group will escort Pope Francis. Government officials had said earlier they were working on multiple contingency plans so that there would be “no surprises” during his visit.