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(LEAD) Pope opts out of chopper to take train to Mass

2014/08/15 15:57

SEOUL, Aug. 15 (Yonhap) -- Scrapping his plans to take a helicopter to his first public Mass in South Korea due to bad weather, Pope Francis on Friday surprised hundreds of travelers by taking a local bullet train to Daejeon, the service's host city.

The pontiff was seen boarding a KTX train at Seoul Station around 8:45 a.m. and arriving at Daejeon Station in the namesake city about 160 kilometers south of Seoul 50 minutes later.

He celebrated the Mass of the Assumption of Mary, which marks the Virgin Mary's rise to heaven, at a football stadium in the city.

Francis rode in the fourth car of the train, in a first-class seat closest to the economy seats, while the other three VIP cars were left empty for security purposes.

More than 500 people were on board the train, which skipped all the stops before Daejeon.

The last-minute change in plans was on account of bad weather, according to the organizing committee of the papal visit, as this morning's weather forecast announced the possibility of strong winds as well as fog that may have interfered with the safety of the pope's flight.

It is not uncommon, however, for the Holy Father to take a train, according to Hur Young-yup, the spokesman for the organizing committee.

"The helicopter is his default means of transit because it is fast and safe, but the pontiff also considers other options, like the train, if taking them would allow him to arrive on schedule," Hur explained.