Pope Francis is the most popular Holy Father that the Catholic Church has had in quite some time. He tends to circumvent the cliché opulence of the church and practices what he preaches. No more jewel-encrusted robes and designer shoes for this Pope. Francis has gone out into the world, to serve the people directly, more than any other Pope in recent memory. Now as part of that very connection he has with the people of the world, Pope Francis has decided to forgo tradition once more, and say no to the bulletproof glass-encased Popemobile.
Ever since Pope John Paul II was shot in an assassination attempt in 1981, the so-called Popemobile has been used to protect the church leader from any others who wish to attack the Pope during public appearances. The Popemobile amounts to a tall bulletproof glass case on the back of a truck and Pope Francis is having none of it. He says that it separates him from the people so he will not use it. Francis acknowledged the potential danger, but appropriately responded that his life was in God’s hands. The continued use of more standard vehicles is even bolder now considering the Pope’s recent excommunication of all involved with mafia activities. No one can say if organized criminals would dare strike at a figure like Pope Francis, but given the well-known history of Italian crime families, it does not seem to be out of the question.
Despite the potentially increased risk, Francis continues to go out into public with far fewer security measures than his predecessors. He has not only shed layers of ornamental garb, but layers of protection. Many see this as a brave and inspiring choice for the man who is supposed to act as a model for all the faithful. Even if Francis has made enemies with his recent large-scale excommunication, he has gained even more worldwide support from it and his pious openness. He has stayed fairly true to his beliefs while not alienating those of other faiths. Francis saying no to the traditional bulletproof glass can be seen as a gesture of faith by people of all beliefs. Instead of sitting in what amounts to a palace casting down judgments Francis, acts as an example.
The current Pope is not without his faults, as the Catholic Church still has many controversies to address. Critics look past his public shows of faith and service and point towards a lack of justice done to past and present Church criminals. Francis has also caught criticism from conservatives for speaking on the biblical principles of avoiding the evils of greed and love of money. Once again, in this situation the Pope’s action angered one group, but ingratiated him even more with others. This Pope is not afraid to stick to the morals of his faith, just as he is not afraid to ignore the traditions he and many others view as harmful or unnecessary.
In many ways, Pope Francis saying no to bulletproof glass as he travels among the people is representative of how he conducts all of his affairs. He focuses on his own work and not what suffering the world might bring upon him, but what suffering he can alleviate from the world with his own power and influence.
Commentary by Matt Isaacs