Italy’s Justice Minister has declined to prosecute a comedian for insulting Pope Benedict XVI in a homosexual demons remark.

Sabina Guzzanti faced up to five years in prison after saying that “within 20 years the Pope will be where he ought to be — in Hell, tormented by great big poofter devils, and very active ones, not passive ones.”

She was speaking at rally in Rome in July, aimed at protesting Catholic interference in areas such as education and gay rights.

Under Italian law it is an offence to “offend the honour” of the Pope.

Despite calls that she be prosecuted, Justice Minister Angelino Alfano said: “I decided not to authorise it, knowing well the stature and capacity of the Pope for forgiveness.”

The Vatican confirmed that it was also willing to let the matter rest. “The Pope’s authority is far too superior to be dented [by the joke] and, in his magnanimity, he considers the case closed,” Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi told the Ansa news agency.

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