11/28/2011 01:42 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI Sued For Not Wearing Seat Belt In Popemobile During Visit To Germany (UPDATE)

It turns out not even the Pope is infallible when it comes to seat belt safety.

A German citizen has filed a lawsuit against Pope Benedict XVI after spotting the leader traveling in the Popemobile without a safety belt during his September visit to the German town of Freiburg, according to the International Business Times. The man from Dortmund is urging the Pope be fined 2,500 euros (about $3,307) for disobeying the rules requiring safety belts.

An English translation of a report in the Westfalischen Rundschau newspaper reveals the suit states the Catholic figurehead, identified as Joseph Ratzinger, did not wear his seat belt on several occasions for an extended period of time, according to The Local.

Freiburg has confirmed that a lawsuit had been filed, the Dogan News Agency reports. Attorney Johannes Christian Sundermann placed the complaint on behalf of the citizen.

The lawsuit calls Baden-Wurttemberg Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann and Archbishop Robert Zolltisch as witnesses to the incident, the International Business Times reports.

However, it remains unclear whether the Pope would be held accountable to the law because of his German citizenship or if "he enjoys diplomatic immunity as the head of a foreign state," according to the Religious News Service.

The Popemobile, which travels at an average speed of about 6 mph, contains seat belts, Sky News points out. The person who filed the suit is reportedly not Catholic.


Niels C. Sorrells
Religion News Service

BERLIN (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI can cross an outstanding charge of failing to use a seatbelt from his list of worries.

The southern German city of Freiburg on Wednesday (Nov. 30) threw out charges against the pontiff for riding in his popemobile without a seatbelt during a September visit.

"There will be no fine for the pope," city spokeswoman Edith Lamersdorf, told the daily Badische Zeitung. "The charges were quashed."

Although there is a requirement in Germany to wear seatbelts, even in slow-moving vehicles, city officials ruled that the law didn't apply in the pope's case because the street on which he was spotted without a seatbelt had been closed for public traffic the day of his visit.

Attorney Christian Sundermann had filed the complaint on behalf of an unnamed German resident of Dortmund. Freiburg was Benedict's last stop during his September visit to his native Germany.

The unnamed plaintiff argued that the pope was seen several times during the visit without a seat belt. The complaint offered several eyewitnesses, including the archbishop of Freiburg, the head of the German Conference of Bishops and the premier of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Sundermann's office had also entered a YouTube clip of the visit, which shows Benedict touring in a German-made Mercedes-Benz popemobile as possible evidence.

If found guilty, the pope could have faced fines of between 30 and 2,500 euros ($40 to $3,340).

Both the attorney and the plaintiff have said the move to press charges was not an attack on the church, but rather an effort to raise awareness of the seat belt law and increase enforcement.