Pope Francis has landed on American soil for the very first time. He is taking a six-day jaunt around the US, hitting New York, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia before flying off. For his inaugural US visit, extensive travel arrangements have been made.
While the President has Air Force One, the Pope will be flying on what has been colloquially termed “Shepherd One”. Unlike Air Force One, it hasn’t been tricked out with special features. Instead, it is a reserved commercial jet from Alitalia. Instead of custom features, it has the papal coat of arms instead of the Alitalia logo. When he’s not flying Shepherd One in the US, he’ll be on an American Airlines flight.
The most recognizable symbol of Pope swag is the Pope-mobile. It’s a kind of hilarious looking modified golf cart. It allows the Pope to stand and be seen by the massive crowds that generally surround him. Pope Francis is unique because he demanded that the bulletproof glass be removed. He claimed it made him feel like he was in a sardine can and that it interfered with him engaging with the crowd. The bulletproof glass was deemed necessary after the 1980 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, but Pope Francis has taken a fairly casual approach to the possible of death. He said, “It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose,” to Vatican Radio.
The Pope travels with a fairly respectable crew. His regular entourage, known as the seguito or the “following”, has around 30 people. The Cardinal Secretary of State, one or two cardinals and bishops, around ten priests and 20 or so other employees for the Vatican Press Office all follow him. There’s additional Vatican security guards along with the typical cache of Swiss Guards. In addition to that, there’s 70 journalists that follow the pontiff. Since Pope Francis doesn’t speak English as well as his five other languages, his translator will often follow him. Journalists typically enjoy this assignment as Pope Francis will walk over to the press section and have full blown, off-the-cuff news conference. It’s at one of these informal conferences where he announced “Who am I to judge?” when asked about LGBT folks on a flight from Brazil. He also insisted that Catholics aren’t obligated to “breed like rabbits” when returning from Manilla.
Pope Francis doesn’t feel particularly beholden to Catholic tradition. He takes selfies. He wears bright yellow rain ponchos and carries his own luggage. He’s rocked a clown nose. And, impressively, he’s got a Twitter! You can follow him at @Pontifex.