Pope Francis will not be traveling in a bullet-proof vehicle during his visit to Egypt later this week despite the ongoing risk of terrorism.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the pope requested that a normal car be used instead of an armored vehicle when he is transported from one venue to another, but he noted that it will not be an open-topped vehicle.
Burke told reporters on Monday that the pontiff will use a “golf cart” rather than the open-air “popemobile” when he makes the rounds through the crowds at the air defense stadium, where he will conduct mass on April 29.
The Vatican spokesman said that heightened security is part of the “new normal” in many countries, but he noted that the pope still wanted to go ahead with his planned visit to Egypt as a “sign of his closeness” to those who were affected by the Palm Sunday attacks in two Coptic churches in the country.
Francis will be having a private meeting with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II at the patriarch’s residence on April 28, Crux reported. They will both visit the nearby church of Sts. Peter and Paul, where a bombing killed 24 people and injured at least 45 others during a Sunday Mass in December 2016.
The two Christian leaders will leave flowers outside the church, light a candle and then pray for the victims of the December attack, according to Burke.
Francis will also attend the World Conference on Peace in Cairo with Tawadros and the grand imam of the Egyptian Muslim institution al-Azhar as part of the efforts “to eliminate the causes of conflict, violence and hate.”
Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar, said that the objective of the conference that will be held on Thursday and Friday is to address “a message to the whole world” to “call for peace between religious leaders, between societies and between all the countries of the world.”
Francis will be giving a speech on Friday after the grand imam, immediately following his arrival in Cairo and a “courtesy visit” to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The pontiff will also meet with a group of children who attend a Comboni-run school in Cairo and he will later greet more than 300 young people who made a pilgrimage to the Egyptian capital to see him.
Despite the security risks, the pope has refused to travel in bullet-proof “popemobiles” in his previous visits to areas threatened by violence as he believes that it creates a barrier between him and the thousands of people who want to see him.
Source: Christian Times