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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ten Commandments for Drivers Issued by Vatican

Document Extols the Virtue of Prayer While Driving

Recently, the Vatican on issued a "Ten Commandments" for drivers to keep them on course for salvation, warning motorists against the offenses of road rage, abuse of alcohol or even simple rudeness.

The extraordinary decree also cautioned that motor vehicles can be "an occasion of sin" — like making a dangerous passing maneuver or when employed by prostitutes and their clients.

And it offered that prayer might be of use — making the sign of the cross before departing and saying the rosary en route. It said that the rosary was particularly well-suited to be said aloud by all in the vehicle, because its "rhythm and gentle repetition does not distract the driver's attention."

Cardinal Renato Martino, who is in charge of the office, told a news conference the Vatican felt compelled to address the pastoral needs of motorists because driving is such a big part of day-to-day living.

He quoted statistics from the World Health Organization stating that approximately 1.2 million lives are claimed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured.

"That's a sad reality, and at the same time, a great challenge for society and the church," the cardinal said.

The document, "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road," praises the benefits of driving, such as family outings, getting the sick to the hospital, allowing people to get to work, and experiencing other cultures.

But it bemoans a host of ills associated with automobiles: Drivers using their cars to show off; drivers who "provide an easy opportunity to dominate others" by speeding; and drivers who kill themselves and others when drunk, use drugs or fall asleep at the wheel.

It cautioned against road rage, pointing out that driving can bring forth "primitive" behavior in motorists, including "impoliteness, rude gestures, cursing, blasphemy, loss of sense of responsibility or deliberate infringement of the highway code."

It called on drivers to obey speed limits and to practice a host of Christian virtues, such as charity to fellow drivers, prudence on the roads, hope of arriving safely, and justice in the event of crashes.

The cardinal's initiative was sure to make headlines in Italy, the home of Ferrari and Fiat, where car culture is deeply entrenched, where weekend highway deaths constantly make the evening news.

There was no evidence that Pope Benedict XVI had approved of, or even read, the document. It was signed by Martino and his secretary — as is routine for lower-level documents that are put out by the offices of the Vatican's immense administration.

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