Rome: 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 on 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 Severo Bruno, a lawyer for the prelate, Reverend Enrico Righi.
"The Reverend Righi is very satisfied and moved," Bruno 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 on Thursday in Viterbo, a town north of Rome.
In his decision, Judge Gaetano Mautone also said prosecutors should investigate Cascioli for possible slander, the lawyer said.
Cascioli, a 72-year-old retired agronomist, 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 claimed 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, Christian and non-Christian, of Jesus's existence.
Cascioli said on Friday he never expected the case to succeed.