A catholic priest has been arrested by Italian police after he took part in a noisy cocaine party.

Life in the quiet village of Carciano, on the scenic shores of the Lake Maggiore, was shaken as worshippers learned that the local parish priest has been arrested by police with a considerable amount of the drug in the fashion capital of Milan.

Father Stefano Maria Cavalletti had gone missing over the weekend, leaving his flock to wonder what had happened to the 45-year-old clergyman.

Another priest was urgently called in to replace him for Sunday mass and celebrate two weddings in the small church of Saint Joseph and Blaise, a popular spot for marrying couples due to its breath-taking view on the glittering waters of the lake and the beautiful Borromean islands.

The mystery surrounding Father Cavalletti's whereabouts was solved after a few days, as local church authorities received a call from the prison chaplain of Milan's infamous San Vittore jail.

The priest had been brought there at night and was now under arrest, charged with possession of illegal drugs with intention of dealing.

Father Cavalletti was detained after security forces raided a house where some of his friends lived.

Police had been called by disturbed neighbours who could not sleep because of loud screams and shouts coming from the flat.

The noise was reportedly caused by an intoxicated man who had lost his temper.

As authorities arrived, Father Cavalletti allegedly tore his passport into pieces and attempted to flush it down the toilet together with a quantity cocaine.

Other evidence of the drug were found scattered around the flat, as well as large amounts of cash and female clothing - although police said only men were at premises when they arrived.

Later, the priest told detectives he had been using cocaine as a self-prescribed remedy against depression since he was found guilty of fraud last year.

In 2013 Cavalletti was handed a five-month suspended sentence over accusations he abused his religious office to deceive an elderly woman into donating him €22,000 (£17,000).

The diocese of Novara said they were "bewildered and pained" upon learning that one of their priests had been arrested.

"We entrust him to God in prayer and wait for light to be shed on the incident," the diocese said.

Possession of drugs for personal use is not a crime in Italy. However, if they are found in large quantities, there is a legal presumption that the owner intends to deal part of it.