The pope’s trip back to his German homeland earlier this year was greeted with cheers and some jeers but now at least one citizen wants the pontiff to be fined for breaking the law.
A fellow-German has decided to file charges against Pope Benedict for allegedly travelling around in his popemobile on the last two days of his official visit to Germany in September without wearing a seatbelt.
Chirsitan Sunderman, the lawyer representing the unnamed German complainant from Dortmund, told the German daily “Berliner Zeitung” that his client was no anticlerical fanatic but a man on a personal road-safety crusade – concerned about the pope’s safety too. Sunderman explained that since having been in a road accident in which people died some time ago, his client is insistent that authorities and celebrities give good example to others while on visits to Germany.
Two high dignitaries have been cited as eyewitnesses in this road safety violation: the Archbishop of Freiburg, president of the German Bishops Conference, the highest Catholic authority in Germany, and the minister-president of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg which includes the city of Freiburg.
The lawyer, however, admitted he hasn’t worked out how to proceed with the case yet. As Pope Benedict enjoys diplomatic immunity while on foreign visits it is unclear if he can in fact be charged with breaking the laws of the road in his native country like any German citizen.
If the case goes forward the Pope could face a Euro fine of the equivalent of between $40 and $3000.
Pope Benedict usually travels in his specially designed popemobile on his foreign trips at a walking pace to allow visibility by the crowds who show up to greet him along his route or at public ceremonies.
The model he most often uses is produced by the German Mercedez-Benz company which has a seat that can be raised hydraulically to allow for more visibility. It is also fitted with bulletproof glass windows and roof and armored side panels and underbody to protect the Pope from attacks, along with more traditional features including seatbelts. However as the popemobile usually goes at an average speed of 6 miles per hour it is probably considered unnecessary for the pope to use his seatbelt so as to allow him to see and wave to the crowds more freely.
Since Pope John Paul II first used a converted truck to greet the faithful on his first trip back home to Poland as pope, various improved models have been used made by different leading car companies around the world. After the attempt on John Paul II’s life in St. Peter’s square in 1981 while he was travelling in an uncovered popemobile, the focus has been on how to protect the pope from attacks from outside rather than an abrupt braking on his journey by his driver.