VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis is forgoing the bulletproof popemobile for his upcoming trip to Brazil for the Catholic Church's youth festival, further evidence that he has no qualms about tweaking the Vatican's security operations for the sake of getting closer to the faithful.
The Vatican said Wednesday that Francis will use the same open-topped car he uses for traveling around St. Peter's Square to move about Rio de Janeiro, where he arrives July 22 for the weeklong World Youth Day fest. He'll use a closed car for longer-distance drives.
In recent times, popes have always used the protected popemobile, with its raised seat and panoramic, bulletproof windows, for forays outside Rome. Francis ended that tradition when he used an open-topped Fiat during his recent visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Francis has made a point of changing Vatican protocol, especially where it concerns the trappings of the papacy and his ability to connect with ordinary people. He eschewed Vatican security on his first outing as pope when he visited a Roman basilica the day after his election, and he has chosen to live in the Vatican hotel rather than the Apostolic Palace.
The Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi announced the change Wednesday during a briefing about the pope's July 22-28 trip, saying it was Francis' decision to leave the popemobile behind.
"It's in continuity with what he does here," Lombardi said. "He feels good about being in close communication with the environs around him, and this car lets him get on and off."