Muslim Activist Sues Pope, Cardinal

A Muslim activist sued the pope, a top cardinal and other church officials Saturday, claiming their comments about the superiority of Christianity violated the Italian constitution.

Activist Adel Smith said he was seeking a court condemnation of the comments but no monetary or other punitive damages.

Smith, who is president of the Muslim Union of Italy, has previously made headlines here for his court battle to have a crucifix taken down from his son's classroom. Several other Islamic organizations distanced themselves from that effort.

In his latest legal effort, Smith said Pope John Paul II and other church officials have violated the Italian constitution which proclaims that all religions are equal under the law. Italy is officially secular, but largely Roman Catholic.

Smith cited a passage of John Paul's 1994 book, "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," in which the pope writes that the "richness of God's self-revelation" in the Bible's Old and New Testament's has been "set aside" in Islam.

The suit also cites comments by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, who in a 2000 document said the faithful of other religions were in a "gravely deficient situation" concerning their salvation compared to Catholics.

Calls placed to the Vatican spokesman weren't immediately returned Saturday.