Maggi said he lit the picture in the name of what he considers “orthodox.”
But at least one churchgoer called the father “very severe” and another called him “a little depressed.”
“It was a shocking gesture, committed before a dozen children,” said witness Gianstefano Orengo, the mayor of the town. “I understand that Don Andrea is going through a delicate period. But this is a very serious gesture. "
Maggi had just begun his homily when he grabbed the photo of Benedict, which had been sitting next to a candle, and dipped it into the flame.
"Many parishioners protested and others, like me, left, bewildered,” Orengo said.
In a statement, the Holy See called the act “execrable.”
“(It) has gravely damaged the church and confused parishioners," said Alberto Maria Careggio, the Bishop for the area. "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.”