Priest Burns Benedict Photo: 'He Was Not a Pope, He Abandoned Us'

An Italian priest burned a picture of Pope Benedict on Sunday as an act of retaliation after accusing the former pope of "abandoning his flock." The bishop and the mayor of the town are not pleased.

Don Andrea Maggi, a 67-year-old pastor in Castel Vittorio, Italy could face serious consequences form the church after burning a picture of the former pope during his Sunday service. Defending his actions, Maggi argued that Benedict was "not a pope."

"A shepherd does not leave his flock!" Maggi said to his church congregation using a single candle to set a picture on Benedict on fire. The priest's actions were witnessed by town mayor Gianstefano Orengo, who spoke of Maggi to the Corriere della Sera.

"It was a shocking gesture, committed before a dozen children," the mayor told the news publication. At least half of the congregation exited the church when Maggi began his rant, according to reports. Orengo stated that the priest had been going through troubling times, but could not justify his actions.

"The fact that Don Andrea is going through a difficult time may perhaps be a mitigating factor, but gestures [like this] are not justifiable," Orengo told Corriere.

Bishop of Ventimiglia-San Remo, Alberto Maria Careggio, also frowned upon the priests actions. Referring to incident as an "execrable," he told the publication that the priest had committed a "grave evil" and caused a "disturbance of ecclesial communion."

The Bishop confirmed his plans to meet with Maggi immediately.

"The act has caused confusion among the faithful," he told Corriere. "I am mortified by the action of Don Andrea, who in other respects has proved to be a priest of generous and sensitive pastoral conduct."

The priest defended himself by stating that Benedict, who stepped down as a pope last Thursday, had failed.

"I am doing it because he was not a Pope," Maggi told the the Daily News. "He abandoned us."