The office of the Pope has long been accompanied by various modes of transportation, a situation that is not too surprising when you consider just how much travel the position calls for. He not only flies back and forth between the Vatican and his private residence (by helicopter, no less), but he makes public appearances outside the Vatican and indeed, all over the world, requiring the use of airplanes, trains, and other modes of transportation. But of course, the most notable vehicles of his office are a fleet of cars and trucks known as Popemobiles.
These official vehicles are made by Mercedes-Benz and they are meant to provide a safe means of showcasing the leader of the Christian church, protecting him from assassination attempts by means of a see-through enclosure that encases him in bulletproof glass. These odd-looking vehicles allow the Pope to sit or stand, as he wishes, in order to wave to the masses from his moving papal perch. But the main purpose in using such vehicles was to do away with the previous mode of ground transportation, the largely ceremonial gestatorial seat (a throne carted around by a dozen or so footmen).
Of course, no two Popes are alike, and the current officeholder, Pope Benedict XVI, has made his commitment to environmental issues clear. Not only has he overseen the installation of solar panels at the Vatican during his tenure, but he has worked to reduce the carbon footprint of his church by joining an organization that engages in reforestation. And he has frequently made the call for protecting “God’s creation” (i.e. the Earth) during speeches across the globe. Hey, there’s a reason he’s been dubbed the “green Pope”. So it’s not that surprising that a carmaker seeking to gain some free press would offer up an electric vehicle as a gift to Benedict; the only real shocker is that no one thought of it sooner.
While the electric Kangoo presented to the Pope by French carmaker Renault is not an official Popemobile, it is certainly in keeping with Benedict’s desire to reduce the carbon emissions associated with his office. Unfortunately, the vehicle lacks the bulletproof glass and other safety features that qualify a car for official duty in service of the Pope, although the car is white and it does bear the official seal of the papal office on the doors. However, it is mainly meant as a personal mode of transportation for the Pope, and as such it will be put to use at his summer residence in the Anwar Hills south of Rome, a charming little retreat of 100+ acres known as Castel Gondolfo. Here it will ferry him between his palazzo and the helipad as he heads out on official business, or simply take him on a tour of his gardens and adjacent guest houses.
While Benedict is likely happy to be tooling around in some green wheels, even if it’s only at home, he’s probably even more pleased by the fact that this custom electric car was a gift, considering the starting price is around $20K. As a bonus, he can probably forego cheap insurance quotes online since it’s only slated for use on his private grounds. In any case, it’s a fitting gift for a man that is using the platform provided by his office to do a good turn for all mankind by supporting green initiatives.