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Last Updated: Monday, 12 July, 2004, 19:43 GMT 20:43 UK
Croatia clergy resist drink curbs
Drinking wine is a key part of Holy Communion
Croatian priests are seeking exemption from a tough new drink driving bill on the grounds that they must sip wine on the job, a local paper reports.

In an effort to improve road safety the government is planning to scrap the 0.05% limit for blood-alcohol content.

The proposed zero-tolerance approach has alarmed some clergy in the heavily Roman Catholic country, according to Jutarnji List newspaper.

Many travel between parishes to say Mass, which includes ritual drinking.

"Consumption of wine is the main component of the Eucharist," priest Zivko Kustic told the newspaper.

We need to agree on at least a bare minimum of tolerance
Croatian priest
"Since we serve Mass daily, sometimes up to three times a day, half the clergy is to bound wind up behind bars," he is quoted as saying.

Another priest told the newspaper: "It could happen that we enter the category of the worst offenders."

Mr Kustic added that he was not calling for clergy to be allowed to drive drunk.

"We need to agree on at least a bare minimum of tolerance," he is quoted as saying.

The Croatian government decided to clamp down on driving and drinking after a sharp rise in road fatalities.


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