Francis gets Skoda Popemobile for Irish trip
IRISH Skoda owners can revel in the knowledge that their cars have received a Papal blessing, writes William Scholes.
The company has been announced as the 'offical car partner' of the WMOF, with a "carefully modified" Skoda Rapid Spaceback being laid on to transport the Pope from Dublin Airport to Áras an Uachtaráin next Saturday morning.
Skoda models are already a favourite of some Irish bishops and ministers in the erstwhile Stormont executive - remember that? - were regularly ferried in chauffeur-driven versions.
The modest wheels are in keeping with Francis's low-key automotive tastes; famously, on the night he was elected Pope, he shunned the papal limousine in favour of sharing a minibus with cardinals, and is usually shuttled around Rome in a well-worn Ford Focus.
In the Republic, the cheapest Rapid Spaceback - the 1.0-litre TSI 'Active' model - costs just under €19,460. Splash out, and the bells-and-whistles 'Sport' model with a seven-speed automatic gearbox is yours for €26,340.
In all, Skoda has laid on three Rapids for the Pope's visit. The cars' glass has been modified and they have been treated to a special shade of navy blue paintwork.
A little chrome flag pole on the passenger-side front wing have been added to allow the Vatican flag to be displayed.
Raymond Leddy, Skoda Ireland's head of marketing and product, said the cars had been allocated special registration plates.
"As part of the papal fleet, we are commemorating Pope John Paul II's visit to Ireland, with vehicle registration 182-C-1979 and, of course, marking this year's event with vehicle registration 182-C-2018.
"182-D-9093 is the primary vehicle, which, when the digits 9093 are inverted, spells out the word 'Pope'."
Mr Leddy that because Skoda designed and built its models "with the family in mind", making it an ideal partner for WMOF2018.
"The Skoda Rapid was chosen as it is one of the best value vehicles in the range, providing extensive rear-seat space and ease of access," he said.
Following his departure, his Skoda and one of the other cars will be given to charity "in accordance with the wishes of Pope Francis".
Although it has CO2 emissions of as little as 103g/km - hardly excessive by normal standards though higher than those of electric cars and hybrid models - the Rapid is arguably not be the 'cleanest' car that could have been chosen for Pope Francis, particularly when care for the environment has been one of his most consistent themes.
Nonetheless, the World Meeting of Families team hopes that people attending next week's events will fully embrace the responsibility to think about their environmental footprint.
An animation produced for WMOF2018 to highlight the 'leave no trace' message offers suggestions to pilgrims of all ages to reduce their environmental footprint including travelling lightly, leaving the car behind and choosing eco-friendly transport, going plastic-free and simply taking time to reflect and enjoy God's creation.
In his encyclical Laudato Si', the Pope asked: "What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?"
Jane Mellett, project co-ordinator for 'Care for our Common Home', said: "We all have a part to play in protecting our common home.
"If everyone joining the World Meeting of Families takes responsibility to be an eco-pilgrim on their journey, we can minimise our impact throughout the event, and most importantly at the Papal Mass in Phoenix Park.
"This wonderful park is a great example of God's creation, and we ask all our pilgrims to do their best to leave no trace while they are here, and bring home all they bring with them, so that the beauty of this park can be enjoyed by generations to come."