You have to love this.
AN ITALIAN judge has ordered a priest to appear in court this month to prove that Jesus Christ existed.
The case against Father Enrico Righi has been brought in the town of Viterbo, north of Rome, by Luigi Cascioli, a retired agronomist who once studied for the priesthood but later became a militant atheist.
Signor Cascioli, author of a book called The Fable of Christ, began legal proceedings against Father Righi three years ago after the priest denounced Signor Cascioli in the parish newsletter for questioning ChristÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s historical existence.
Yesterday Gaetano Mautone, a judge in Viterbo, set a preliminary hearing for the end of this month and ordered Father Righi to appear. The judge had earlier refused to take up the case, but was overruled last month by the Court of Appeal, which agreed that Signor Cascioli had a reasonable case for his accusation that Father Righi was Ã¢â‚¬Å“abusing popular credulityÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Signor CascioliÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s contention Ã¢â‚¬â€ echoed in numerous atheist books and internet sites Ã¢â‚¬â€ is that there was no reliable evidence that Jesus lived and died in 1st-century Palestine apart from the Gospel accounts, which Christians took on faith. There is therefore no basis for Christianity, he claims.
Signor CascioliÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one-man campaign came to a head at a court hearing last April when he lodged his accusations of Ã¢â‚¬Å“abuse of popular credulityÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“impersonationÃ¢â‚¬Â, both offences under the Italian penal code. He argued that all claims for the existence of Jesus from sources other than the Bible stem from authors who lived Ã¢â‚¬Å“after the time of the hypothetical JesusÃ¢â‚¬Â and were therefore not reliable witnesses.