Was it a case of an over-zealous bureaucrat? Safety officials trying to make a highly visible point about the need for car seat belts?
“In a case that brought amusement to the Vatican, a German court decided to throw out charges against Pope Benedict for not wearing a seat belt during his recent papal visit to the country,” reports the Catholic News Agency.
Pope Benedict XVI in the Popemobile
“There will be no fine for the Pope,” city spokeswoman Edith Lamersdorf told the German newspaper Sudkurier.
It turns out that the charges were brought by an anonymous citizen with a passion for seat belt safety. His attorney, Christian Sundermann, filed the complaint on behalf of the unnamed Dortmund resident, saying her client was annoyed that the pontiff had ignored local seat belt laws when he visited
A Germany court quashed the complaint, acknowledging that Germany requires all car occupants to wear seat belts, but that law doesn’t apply to occupants of parade floats. The pope was exempt since his vehicle was moving at extremely slow speeds on closed public streets lined by crowds there to catch a glimpse of the first German-born pope since medieval times.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the legal charges had provoked “curiosity and smiles of amusement” in Rome, “beginning with the Pope himself.”
He said the question of Benedict XVI wearing a seat belt in the Popemobile actually had been discussed, but that the vehicle moves very slowly and it was decided the pontiff should not be restricted as he “turns continually to the right and to the left to greet and bless the faithful.”
“Often he gets up and takes in his arms babies to bless, to the joy of the parents and everyone present,” said Lombardi. “All these gestures presume a certain freedom of movement.”
He said Benedict was “grateful for the affectionate concern for the Pope’s safety.”