DHAKA: Pope Francis will forego his trusty popemobile for a cycle rickshaw in Bangladesh, Catholic officials said Thursday, as the famously frugal pontiff began a three-day visit to the poor country.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church said the pope had asked to ride in a cycle rickshaw to a park where he will lead an open-air mass on Friday, which is expected to draw around 100,000 worshippers.
"There is a rickshaw ready for him," Kamal Corraya told AFP, adding that the pope would likely forego the glass-sided popemobile that he usually travels in for a basic Toyota car to save money.
The 80-year-old Argentine pontiff has established a reputation for his down-to-earth manner, vowing to stamp out extravagance among the clergy and bring the Catholic Church closer to the poor.
Dhaka is famous for its cycle-pulled rickshaws, which are usually decorated in bright colours.
But in recent years they have started to fade away, replaced by new battery-driven autorickshaws.
Corraya said the last pope to visit Bangladesh, John Paul II, had ridden in a rickshaw pulled by a Catholic priest.
The moonlighting paid off -- he was later promoted to the rank of Bishop.