The Pope likes to travel. But he doesn’t travel alone. He travels with security, aides and a specially-built protective vehicle.
Most of the special vehicles he uses are bullet-proof—for good reason. In 1981, a Turkish Muslim, Mehmet Ali Agca, shot the then-Pope (John Paul II) while the Pope was being driven in an open, unprotected car through St Peters Square, in Vatican City. Since then, the Vatican has used several different vehicles to transport the Pope so that he could be visible to his worshippers but seated within a protective ‘chamber’.
The designs of these ‘Pope mobiles’ vary, but the basic principle is to carry the Pope in a bullet-proof glass-enclosed ‘box’ that sits behind and above a driver and security guard. In this manner, the Pope rides above the normal car level, can be seen from all angles, and is both protected and comfortably seated.
The purpose of these ‘cars’ (some of which look like a highly-modified pick-up truck) is to elevate the Pope’s seat, cruise at very low speed, and deter acts of violence against the Pope.
But the current Pope, Francis, has a reputation for avoiding his Pope mobiles. He doesn’t like them. Instead, he prefers to travel in an ordinary car including, we are told, an old Ford Focus with an estimated 186,000 kilometres on the odometer.
Now, he comes to a region where Christians are heavily persecuted by Muslims. Being Christian is so dangerous within Arab-controlled areas (the Palestinian Authority and Gaza), that most Arab Christians have fled. Will he travel here with a bullet-proof Pope mobile?
No, he won’t. He wants to be close ‘to the people’ (NBCnews.com). He will shun bulletproof vehicles.
NBC said that when local security officials requested that the Pope use a bullet-proof vehicle, the Vatican over-ruled them. A Times of Israel report suggested that those ‘local officials’ were not Jewish (“Pope to drive in open-top cars on Middle East trip”, may 15, 2014). They were Arab officials in Amman and Bethlehem.
They have reason to want higher security for the Pope. Christians aren’t welcome in Arab territories. In fact, because Muslim persecution of Christians is so intense, a recent Pew report makes the striking observation that ‘Christians today are the world’s most oppressed religious group (“Pope Francis’s Visit to Israel”, Rabbi Benjamin Blech, aish.com, May 25, 2014). The Human Rights group, Open Doors, has also recently published a World Watch List to rank the top 50 nations that persecute Christians. The overwhelming majority of countries making the list – and nine of the top ten worst offenders – are Muslim, including several Arab countries (ibid).
In the end, the Pope did in fact bring a Pope mobile—but it wasn’t glass-enclosed. It didn’t protect him with a bullet-proof chamber. It was, essentially, an open-air vehicle.
Israel should not have allowed it.
One of the lessons Israel has learned in the weeks leading up to this Papal visit is that the Catholic Church is very quick to blame Israel for actions taken by Muslims. Catholic officials in Jerusalem have even gone so far as to demonize Israel by calling anti-Catholic graffiti ‘Jewish acts of terror’—even though no Jews have been arrested for the graffiti.
If you missed the point of this accusation, consider this: vandalism in the form of painted graffiti is not ‘terror’. What Arab Muslims do to Arab Christians is ‘terror’. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church in Jerusalem does not blame Muslims for anti-Christian attacks in Arab-held areas. It blames Israel.
It claims that Muslim anti-Christian attacks are caused by Israeli policies. Israel’s presence and its need to protect itself provoke those attacks.
The Catholic Church in Israel is anti-Israel. The Pope may not be far behind. On this visit, he has called Mahmoud Abbas a ‘man of peace’ (“Pope to Abbas: You are known as a man of peace”, Ma’an news service, May 25, 2014).
Abbas is not a man of peace. Abbas calls convicted and often self-confessed Jew-killers ‘national heroes’. His new Fatah Party logo does not show ‘Palestine’ side-by-side with Israel. The logo shows the Arab ‘Palestine’ replacing Israel.
That’s not peace. It’s conquest. It means the destruction of Israel.
Is that what the Pope supports?