German Court Drops Seat Belt Charges Against Pope Benedict


By Marianne Medlin

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.

“There will be no fine for the Pope,” city spokeswoman Edith Lamersdorf told German news agency Badische Zeitung on Nov. 30. “The charges were quashed.”

Lawyer Christian Sundermann had filed a complaint on behalf of an unnamed Dortmund resident who voiced concern over the Pope’s safety. In August, the pontiff visited his native country, making stops in the cities of Berlin, Freiburg and Erfurt, where he greeted locals from his popemobile.

Officials ruled on Wednesday that although Germany requires all citizens to wear seat belts—even in slow-moving vehicles—the law didn’t apply to the Pope since he was on public streets that were closed for papal events.

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., said on Nov. 30 that the charges provoked “curiosity and smiles of amusement” at the Holy See, “beginning with the Pope himself.”

He explained the need for Pope Benedict to not be restricted by seat belts during his visits, since 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,” Fr. Lombardi said. “All these gestures presume a certain freedom of movement.”

The spokesman was, nevertheless, “grateful for the affectionate concern for the Pope’s safety.”

Pope Benedict could have been fined 30 to 2,500 euros ($40 to $3,300) if he was found guilty of the charges.

Attorney Sundermann clarified that her client’s intent was to draw attention to the importance of supporting seat belt law enforcement rather than level an attack on the Church.


The Catholic News Agency (CNA) has been, since 2004, one of the fastest growing Catholic news providers to the English speaking world. The Catholic News Agency takes much of its mission from its sister agency, ACI Prensa, which was founded in Lima, Peru, in 1980 by Fr. Adalbert Marie Mohm (†1986).

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