VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will ride in open-top cars in Amman and Bethlehem during his May 24-26 trip to the Middle East this month despite security concerns, the Vatican said on Thursday as it outlined the travel schedule.
The Argentine pontiff will also not be taking any bulletproof cars during his busy trip and will travel by helicopter from Amman to Bethlehem, from Bethlehem to Tel Aviv and from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Francis has preferred to use open-top cars in contrast to his predecessor Benedict XVI who rode in a bulletproof "popemobile" -- a novelty introduced after the attempted assassination of John Paul II in 1981.
The papal voyage will include several symbolically important ceremonies to call for unity between different branches of Christianity and better relations between Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
"It's a programme that he himself has approved," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters.
Lombardi said Francis would make 20 stops during the tour of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories and make 14 speeches.
Like John Paul II, Francis will pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and leave a message in one of its crevices. (AFP)