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Jesus Christ's existence to go on trial?

Atheist Luigi Cascioli alleges Jesus never existed in his book, ‘The Fable of Christ’

A small Italian town is expected to be the epicenter of worldwide focus this week as legal proceedings begin in a lawsuit over the existence of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Viterbo, Italy, north of Rome, is the venue where Rev. Enrico Righi is being sued by his childhood friend, atheist Luigi Cascioli, for deceiving people into thinking Jesus was an actual historical figure.

“This complaint does not wish to contest the freedom of Christians to profess their faith, sanctioned by [article] 19 of the Italian Constitution,” says Cascioli, “but wishes to denounce the abuse that the Catholic Church commits by availing itself of its prestige in order to inculcate ? as if being real and historical ? facts that are really just inventions.”

The author of “The Fable of Christ” claims the priest violated local laws against deception when he stated in a 2002 parish gazette “that the historic figure of Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary (two totally imaginary characters and therefore historically non existing [claims Cascioli]); of having the same Jesus been born in the village of Bethlehem and of having grown up in Nazareth.”

Lawyers for Righi are slated to appear in court Friday to discuss preliminary motions on evidence proving the historicity of the man who is now worshipped as God by millions of Christians across the globe.

On his website, Cascioli alleges the person as Jesus is “for the most part based on the figure of John of Gamala, son of Judas, downright descendant of the Asmoneian stock.”

Rev. Righi says the existence of Jesus is “unmistakable” due to a wealth of both pagan and Christian evidence pointing to his reality.

“Cascioli maintains that Christ never existed. If he doesn’t see the sun at midday, he can’t denounce me just because I do. He should denounce all believers!” Righi told the London Times recently.

Among his examples are the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, thought by scholars to be the most important non-Christian source on the issue. One of his passages of “Jewish Antiquities,” a work completed in A.D. 93, mentions the execution in A.D. 62 of “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, James by name.”

Cascioli declares he is not intent on having the matter be decided by a court of law, saying, “I wrote to [Righi] an open letter, stating that I would withdraw the lawsuit if he were capable of supplying proof, just one proof, of the historical existence of Jesus.”

Cascioli has since turned to Archbishop Giacomo Biffi of Bologna, Italy, to avoid the appearance of picking on a poor, local cleric.

In an open letter to the archbishop, Cascioli writes: “In the certainty that you are fully aware of how much more damaging any further silence, the silence of a bishop would be for the Church, than that of a lowly country parish priest, I have nothing else to do, but wait for your proof of the existence of Jesus, called The Christ. Proof that, besides satisfying your two diocesan followers and relieving don Enrico Righi of his legal obligations, would spare the Church a probable catastrophe.”


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