The Pope travels without the protection of a bullet-proof vehicle. Photo: AFP
Rome: Pope Francis says he refuses to travel in a "sardine can" bullet-proof Popemobile because, despite concerns for his security, at his age he has nothing to lose.
Pope Francis has brushed off fears for his personal security, saying he wants to engage with ordinary people.
The 77-year-old pontiff has created a security headache for Vatican officials with his refusal to ride in Popemobiles equipped with enclosed, bullet-proof glass domes.
The open-air Pontiff: Pope Francis has ditched the PopeMobile. Photo: Reuters
There were particular fears for his safety during his recent trip to the Holy Land, which involved public appearances in Jordan, Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Similar concerns arose last July when he made a week-long trip to Rio de Janeiro, where he toured a favela and rode in an open-topped white jeep beside Copacabana beach.
Pope Francis, who was elected in March last year, said: "It's true that anything could happen, but, let's face it, at my age I don't have much to lose."
"I know what could happen, but it is in God's hands," he said in an interview with La Vanguardia, a Barcelona daily.
"I remember in Brazil, they had provided for me an enclosed Popemobile, but I cannot greet the people and tell them I love them inside a sardine can, even if it is made of glass. For me it is a wall."
The Argentine Pope has opted to use open-top cars in contrast to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who rode in a bullet-proof Popemobile - a measure introduced after the attempted assassination of John Paul II in St Peter's Square in 1981.
He also said that Pope Benedict's historic decision to resign in February last year had set a precedent, opening the way to future pontiffs to step down rather than die in office, as has been the tradition for centuries.
Benedict, 87, became the first pope to resign since the Middle Ages and now lives in a former convent within the walls of the Vatican City State.
"Benedict made a great gesture," Pope Francis said.
"I will do the same as he did: ask the Lord to show me when the moment comes and tell me what to do, and he will tell me, for sure."