The most recognizable vehicle in Washington, D.C. this week will most likely be the, “Popemobile”. The term is affectionately applied to the protective glass enclosed Mercedes-Benz that takes the Holy Father from one event to another during his pastoral journeys.
The Popemobile originated during the pontificate of John Paul II as a manner to provide the most visibility while maintaining safety for the Pope during his apostolic visits. The vehicle is encased with protective glass, which has a capability of protecting the Holy Father from any attempt to harm him physically with bullets or perhaps a bomb. The cabin of the Popemobile is climate controlled and has just one solitary seat…from which the Pope greets faithful crowds all over the world.
Protecting the Pope is the responsibility of the United States Secret Service while he is in the U.S. Members of the Papal Swiss Guards and Italian Cabinieri also lend support to the security detail when the Holy Father travels outside of the Vatican.
The Popemobile is actually manufactured by various auto companies. The vehicle being used during the visit to Washington, D.C. and New York is made especially for the Pope by Mercedes-Benz. The papal fleet contains three popemobiles and they are always shipped ahead of the Pope’s foreign trips whenever he leaves Vatican City.
Pope Benedict XVI will use the Popemobile three times in Washington D.C. and once in New York.