Italian Priest Burns Pope Benedict XVI's Photo, Claims He Abandoned Faithfuls

Don Andrea Maggi was protesting against the Pope's resignation

A priest in a small village in Italy has protested against Pope Benedict XVI's resignation by burning his picture during Sunday mass.

67-year-old Don Andrea Maggi has been a pastor in Castel Vittorio, Lecco province for five years, New York Daily News writes, quoting Italian publication Corriere della Sera.

“A shepherd does not leave his flock! [...] I am doing it because he was not a Pope. […] He abandoned us,” Maggi said as he was setting fire to the Pope's photograph by using a candle.

He also mentioned that he was fighting to preserve all things “orthodox” through the burning of the Pope's depiction.

Several parishioners witnessed the incident, and some were deeply upset by Maggi's reaction, which they dubbed “very severe.”

“Many parishioners protested and others, like me, left, bewildered,” describes Castel Vittorio mayor Gianstefano Orengo.

Some churchgoers explained the outburst by detailing that the cleric had been going through a hard time, and might be “a little depressed.”

“It was a shocking gesture, committed before a dozen children. [...] I understand that Don Andrea is going through a delicate period. But this is a very serious gesture,” Orengo adds.

11 years ago, singer Sinead O’Connor prompted outrage among Catholic faithfuls with a similar gesture, when she ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II on “Saturday Night Live.”

The Catholic Church has shown disapproval for the pastor's actions by dubbing them “execrable.” Alberto Maria Careggio, the Bishop for the region, has apologized for the priest, noting that his actions have only caused dismay and confusion.

“(It) has gravely damaged the church and confused parishioners. [...] This act has caused confusion among the faithful. I am mortified by the action of Don Andrea, who in other respects has proved a most generous and sensitive priest,” Careggio says.

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