Image: Pope Benedixt XVI in popemobile
Gregorio Borgia  /  AP
Pope Benedict XVI, followed by security guards, arrives aboard the popemobile in Hyde park to attend a vigil prayer in London.
updated 6/24/2011 4:52:37 PM ET 2011-06-24T20:52:37

An animal rights group has urged Pope Benedict XVI to "truly go green" and insist that the next popemobile is made without leather.

PETA said it has written to the pope with the request following the Vatican's confirmation Wednesday that Germany's Mercedes-Benz auto company is making a study of a hybrid, energy-saving popemobile. The car would replace the current Mercedes vehicle used when the pope travels abroad.

Story: Vatican says hybrid popemobile is on the way

PETA spokeswoman Ashley Gonzalez says leather production is not only "toxic to the environment, it's also hell for cows."

The letter, which is dated June, 22 and also sent to The Associated Press, said PETA counts many Catholics among its members and suggested that a leather-free car could "help the environment and prevent animal suffering."

The Vatican press office said Friday it hadn't seen the letter and couldn't comment.

Image: Popemobile
Andrew Medichini  /  AP
Pope Benedict XVI arrives in his popemobile to celebrate a mass Sunday in Seravalle's stadium, San Marino.

A history of being 'green'
Benedict has made conserving resources an important concern of his papacy. Vatican officials say a green popemobile would be a sign of his efforts to promote sustainable energy and take care of the planet.

When he is outside the Vatican, Benedict usually rides in a modified white Mercedes-Benz outfitted with bulletproof windows. It has room for two passengers in addition to the pope, who sits on an elevated chair to wave to crowds.

Through the years, a number of different models have been donated to the Vatican.

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Photos: Benedict: The first years

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  1. Cardinal Ratzinger attends Pope John Paul II's funeral in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 8, 2005. The cardinal was elected to succeed John Paul as Pope Benedict XVI. He is the 265th pope, leader of the Roman Catholic Church, which claims a billion members. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The newly elected Pope Benedict XVI appears on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on April 19, 2005, in Vatican City. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Pope Benedict XVI waves from his popemobile as he arrives to celebrate Mass near Kerpen, Germany, on Aug. 21, 2005. More than a million young pilgrims attended the Mass at a Catholic festival. (Pier Paolo Cito / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims as he floats down the Rhine River on Aug. 18, 2005, in Cologne, Germany. The pope returned to his native Germany for the first trip of his papacy. (Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Pilgrims wave at the pope during the river float. More than 400,000 young Catholics from nearly 200 countries welcomed the new pope to Cologne, Germany, for the World Youth Day festival. (Sebastian Willnow / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Pope Benedict XVI prays in front of the Christmas crib in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Dec. 31, 2005. (Patrick Hertzog / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Pope Benedict XVI, wearing a Camauro, which is a red velvet hat with white ermine trim used by popes in the 12th century, waves to pilgrims as he arrives on St. Peter's Square to preside over his weekly general audience on Dec. 28, 2005. (Patrick Hertzog / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Pope Benedict XVI talks with unidentified members of a Muslim delegation during his weekly open-air general audience in St. Peter's Square on March 1, 2006. (Osservatore Romano Arturo Mari / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pilgrims gather in St. Peter's Square on April 2, 2006, as the pope leads a special prayer vigil to mark the one-year anniversary of Pope John Paul II's death. (Patrick Hertzog / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Pope Benedict XVI prays at the tomb of late Pope John Paul II in the grotto beneath St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on April 6, 2006. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Pope Benedict XVI lays prostrate as he prays during Good Friday mass in St. Peter's Basilica on April 14, 2006. (Andreas Solaro / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square on April 16, 2006. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Pope Benedict XVI greets believers as he arrives for evening prayers at the basilica of Altoetting on Sept. 11, 2006. Benedict is making his fourth foreign trip since becoming pope in April 2005 and the second to Germany in that time. (Thomas Lohnes / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Pope Benedict XVI and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I arrive at the St. George Church in Istanbul on November 29, 2006. Pope Benedict met with Bartholomew in pursuit of a key goal of his papacy: healing a rift between the two feuding branches of Christianity that dates back nearly 1,000 years. (Patrick Hertzog / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Pope Benedict XVI leaves the Sistine Chapel after a baptism ceremony at the Vatican on January 7, 2007. (Alberto Pizzoli / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims and faithful during an open-air Palm Sunday Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 1, 2007. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem and is the start of the church's Holy Week. (Alessandra Tarantino / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Pope Benedict XVI waves from the popemobile as he arrives for the opening mass of the Latin American Episcopal Council in Aparecida, Brazil, on May 13, 2007. (Victor Caivano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. President Bush meets with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on June 9, 2007. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah presents gifts to Pope Benedict XVI during their meeting at the Vatican on Nov. 6, 2007. The pope has been pressing the Saudi Arabian monarch to allow freedom of worship for Christians. (Chris Helgren / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Benedict meets French President Nicolas Sarkozy at his private library Dec. 20, 2007, in Vatican City. Sarkozy was visiting the pope for the first time since taking office amid speculation over his relationship with ex-model Carla Bruni, whom he later married. (Franco Origlia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Benedict greets the faithful during the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's square at the Vatican on Jan. 20, 2008. Tens of thousands of people attended the pope's traditional noontime blessing, showing their support after the Vatican canceled his visit to a university because of protests by students and faculty. (L'Osservatore Romano via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Pope Benedict XVI arrives at the Amadou Ahidjo stadium to celebrate a Mass in Yaounde , Cameroon, on March 19, 2009. The pontiff was in Africa for a seven-day trip that took him to Cameroon and Angola. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Pope Benedict XVI walks in front of the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City on May 12, 2009. (Osservatore Romano / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A man in Rome uses an Apple iPod Touch to view a new official Vatican Internet portal with an image of Pope Benedict XVI on May 22, 2009. The Vatican website, www.pope2you.net, went live ahead of the Roman Catholic Church's World Communications Day the next day. (Alessandro Bianchi / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Pope Benedict XVI walks with US President Barack Obama first lady michelle during an audience on July 10, 2009 at The Vatican. Obama was meeting the pope for the first time. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. This sequence of images taken from amateur video shows an unidentified woman jumping over a barrier and grabbing the pope as a guard pulls her down, while the pope walks down the main aisle to begin Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on Dec. 24, 2009. The pope was unhurt, and the service continued. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The faithful crowd into Hyde Park during a prayer vigil led by the pope in London on Sept. 18, 2010. (Gregorio Borgia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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