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Priest burns Benedict photo during mass: Why?

An Italian priest burned a photo of Pope Benedict to protest the former pontiff's abdication, telling a shocked congregation that emeritus pope had abandoned his flock.

By Catherine HornbyReuters / March 4, 2013

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd from the window of Castel Gandolfo on Feb. 28. An Italian priest burned a photo of Benedict XVI during mass on Sunday.

Andrew Medichini / AP

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VATICAN CITY

An Italian priest set fire to a photo of Pope Benedict during Sunday Mass in protest against his abdication, telling a shocked congregation that the former pontiff had abandoned his flock.

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"It was wonderful," the Rev. Andrea Maggi from Santo Stefano Protomartire church in the small northern village of Castel Vittorio, told La Repubblica daily, defending his act.

He compared Benedict, who resigned as pope on Thursday, to Captain Francesco Schettino, who is accused of abandoning the Costa Concordia cruise ship that capsized off the Italian coast before all passengers were rescued.

Gian Stefano Orengo, mayor of the municipality in the northwestern Liguria region, told Italian radio the action had prompted half of the congregation to walk out.

"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 said, adding that Maggi then used a candle flame set alight the photo of Benedict.

Orengo said he would inform Church authorities about the incident, adding that Maggi was going through a "fragile" time from a psychological point of view.

Editing by Michael Roddy

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