Italian judge stops case over existence of Jesus

An Italian judge dismissed an atheist's case that a small-town priest should stand trial for asserting that Jesus Christ existed, a lawyer said Friday. The priest's accuser, Luigi Cascioli, contended the Roman Catholic Church has been deceiving people for 2,000 years with a fable that Christ existed and he accused the priest of violating two laws with the assertion.

"The judge has ordered that the case be shelved," said Bruno Severo, a lawyer for the prelate, Rev. Enrico Righi. "The Rev. Righi is very satisfied and moved," Severo said. "He is an old, small-town parish priest who never would have thought he'd be in the spotlight for something like this."

The ruling was released Thursday in Viterbo, a town north of Rome where the priest is based. In his decision, Judge Gaetano Mautone also said prosecutors should investigate Cascioli for possible slander, the lawyer said. Cascioli filed a criminal complaint against Righi, his old schoolmate, in 2002 after Righi wrote in a parish bulletin that Jesus did indeed exist, and that he was born of a couple named Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth .

Cascioli claims that Righi's assertion violated two laws: so-called "abuse of popular belief" in which someone fraudulently deceives people; and "impersonation," in which someone gains by attributing a false name to someone. Righi, 76, has stressed substantial historical evidence both Christian and non-Christian of Jesus' existence.

Cascioli was not available for comment Friday. He has said in the past that he had little expectation that the case would succeed in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy, and that he planned to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, reports the AP.


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