Bell-ringing priest cleared of charges

Sabbionara, Italy - An Italian court ruled a priest who garnered complaints from neighbors with frequent early morning bell-ringing was practicing religious freedom.

Don Ernesto Villa, who was accused by neighbors of ringing the bells at his church in Sabbionara every 15 minutes beginning at 7 a.m., was cleared of a disturbing-the-peace charge Wednesday, ANSA reported Thursday.

The court said Villa was exercising his religious freedom and the bell-ringing is protected by the Concordat of 1929 agreement between Italy and the Vatican.

Lawyers for Sabbionara residents had argued the bell-ringing was not a necessary component of religious practice.