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.
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.
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.