An Italian priest burned a photo of the former pope during mass in a move that left his parishoners stunned and slightly amazed.
The priest, Father Andrea Maggi, set the photo on fire during a sermon and compared Pope Benedict XVI to the captain of the Costa Concordia, who allegedly left his passengers on the wrecked cruise ship.
The captain, Francesco Schettino, was accused of fleeing his post when he was asked to be the last person off the ship, reports Sky News. Father Andrea asserted that Benedict did the same by “abandoning” the Catholic Church.
While he burned the photograph, the Italian priest explained:
“I’m doing this because he has not been a Pope, he has abandoned us. A shepherd never leaves his flock.”
The action by Father Andrea caused half of the congregation to walk out of the mass, notes Yahoo! News. Gian Stefano Orengo, the mayor of the municipality where the incident happened, recalled:
“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.”
Orengo added that he plans to inform Church authorities about the incident. For his part, the Italian priest was unrepentant about his actions. Instead of apologizing for burning the photo of Benedict, Father Andrea explained he previously promised to burn the photo if the pope decided to leave. He added:
“I’m not interested in his reasons for leaving. 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.”
Bishop Alberto Maria Careggio was horrified by the action, which he called “abominable.” He added that he would be arranging a meeting with the priest “as soon as possible.”
Pope Benedict XVI is the first pope to resign in 600 years. He explained that he made the decision because he “felt tired.” While some in the Catholic Church have understood Benedict’s reasons for stepping down, the former pope has angered many Catholics and senior Church chiefs by his actions, because the position is for life.
Do you think the Italian priest who burned a photo of the former pope should be punished?