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Priest Burns Benedict Photo: 'This Is Not A Pope, This Is Not A Shepherd, He Abandoned His Flock'

By Staff Writer | March 04, 2013 07:26 PM EST

Pope Benedict XVI
(Photo : Wikipedia)

An Italian priest burned a photo of ex-Pope Benedict XVI during Sunday's mass and sent shock waves through the onlooking crowd of parishioners.

Father Andrea Maggi set the photo on fire in front of patrons during his sermon, leaving them both stunned and confused.

It was reported that several congregation members walked out after witnessing the fiery display.

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The Italian priest reportedly said this while destroying the picture, "I'm doing this because he has not been a Pope, he has abandoned us. A shepherd never leaves his flock."

However, Gian Stefano Orengo, the Mayor of the municipality where the photo burning happened, later clarified what Father Andrea said while setting the image in flames. "Before starting the homily, the priest took the photo of the pope and he said this is not a pope, this is not a shepherd, he abandoned his flock."

He later added that Maggi was going through a "fragile" time from a psychological point of view.

The priest continued to say the ex-Pope's retirement resembled the story of the captain of Costa Concordia who allegedly abandoned his passengers on the doomed ship. He insisted Benedict had "abandoned" the Catholic Church.

Father Andrea was unapologetic for burning the photo of Benedict. He claimed that he had previously promised to do so if the Pope went through with his retirement plans.

He made a statement about his strong position against Benedict.

"I'm not interested in his reasons for leaving," he went on to say. "The job of Pope is for life. He should not have left ... The Pope said this was the year of faith and then he leaves his post as head of the church."

Father Maggi is expected to meet with Bishop Alberto Maria Careggio this week about the incident. He has reportedly called the priest's actions "abominable."

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