Middle East and North Africa

Pope Francis chooses not to use bullet proof car during Egypt visit

The Pope will use a closed car to move around, but not an armoured one, according to a Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke. “That’s how he wanted it,”  he said. This is raising a security nightmare for security details who will want to reduce any security risks during the Papal visit which starts on Friday. Pope Francis, on the other hand, has compared bullet-proof vehicles to “sardine cans”. The Pontiff sees the cars as restricting his interaction with his Egyptian ‘flock’.

The security concerns come after the twin bomb blast that killed about 50 people in Egypt earlier this week and a history of recent attacks by Islamic State in the peninsular against Christians in Egypt.

Pope Francis will be in Egypt this Friday for a two-day visit. He will meet with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of the 1,000-year-old Al Azhar mosque and Muslim leaders with the hope of fostering peaceful harmony between followers of Islam and the country’s significant and ancient Christian population. Ten per cent of Egypt’s population of 92 million people are Christians.

The Pope will celebrate Mass, meet the country’s Catholics and Pope Tawadros, leader of the Coptic church to express his solidarity with the persecuted Egyptian church.

He is expected to travel through the streets but not in the Popemobile due to security concerns. However the Vatican is playing down the heightened security tension regarding the the Pope’s visit. “Security is an issue everywhere, not just in Egypt,” Burke said. “Are we worried? I wouldn’t use the word ‘worry’. The security measures are similar to many trips. The Egyptians obviously want everything to go well,” he added.