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Pope To Roll Through Germany in an Electric Car

Mercedes is building a hybrid Popemobile for Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit. That’s a departure from the usual—for every day getting around, His Holiness sticks to Italian makes.

Pope Benedict in a past trip to Germany (John_Brennan)
Pope Benedict in a past trip to Germany (John_Brennan)
Holger Holzer

For the first time the Pope will have electrically-powered wheels. Or at least partially. According to the German magazine Wirtschafts Woche, Mercedes is building a hybrid for Pope Benedict XVI's September 2011 state visit to his homeland.

The Popemobile will be based on the new generation SUV ML model that will also be available as a hybrid version to the common consumer. In his custom-made vehicle, the Pope will be shielded by bullet proof glass. The electric, armored four-wheel drive can go for up to 30 km before needing to be recharged, but a switch over to a petrol-powered engine is always possible.

Mercedes had built the first modern-day Popemobile for John Paul II, who, unlike his predecessors, felt it was important to be more accessible to his flock. However, a convertible was out of the question, so Mercedes came up with the glassed-covered sit-and-wave solution.

That vehicle had been based on an all-terrain Mercedes G class. Following an assassination attempt on the Pope in 1981 it became the vehicle he used for all his public appearances.

The car had a special gear that enabled it to be driven at very low, constant speeds. A raised seat covered by a bullet proof glass dome was mounted behind the driver and mother of pearl colored lacquer added that touch of elegance.

For many years, the papal Mercedes was taken on all the pope's foreign visits. But it was soon replaced. Today's Popemobile is no longer based on the G model, but on the more comfortable M class.

Despite the Vatican's history with Mercedes, the Pope is no poster boy for the German car maker. Other automobile manufactured have built Popemobiles for the Pontiff's trips abroad. There are some 60 of them in the world. Among the best known are those based on a Range Rover and a VW Touareg. But Ferrari has also gotten in on the game –though its vehicle didn't have the glass partition - and Cadillac built a Deville with an actual throne.

The cars may have been different, but the license plate was nearly always the same: SCV 1. The letters stand for ‘"Status Civitatis Vaticanae" (Vatican City State). Numero uno refers to the papal position as head of state.

Despite the grandeur of the Popemobiles, cars used for less momentous occasions are more run of the mill. And of Italian make. For audiences on St. Peter's Square, for example, the pontiff will often wave from a Fiat Campagnola. To get around Vatican City, there's the Lancia Thesis Jubileo, already used by John Paul II.

If what he was driving back in the day in Germany as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is any indication, His Holiness actually might have a soft spot for German cars after all. He was known to get around in a VW Golf.

Read the original article in German

Photo -John_Brennan

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Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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