Church senior priest stood down over fraud claims

3 News, New Zealand/August 29, 2011

The Catholic community in Christchurch is reeling from news one of its most senior priests has been stood down over alleged financial irregularities.

Father John Fitzmaurice is the parish priest for Sacred Heart Addington and also ministers to the ministry in Hoon Hay.

A letter from Catholic Bishop Barry Jones was read out at masses yesterday stating it was his "painful duty" to confirm Fitzmaurice is suspended from "all priestly ministry".

Mr Jones says the financial irregularities are in areas Father John was responsible for.

“This is not a very good experience at all. Everyone is disappointed,” he says.

Lyndsay Freer is the communications spokesperson from the Auckland diocese and says it is more bad news after the earthquakes.

"This is just another shock," she says. "I think people at this stage are shocked, but until investigations take place, it won't be appropriate to say anything."

Ms Freer says diocesan authorities are in full discussions with Father John over the allegations.

Earlier this month Jonathan Kirkpatrick, an Anglican priest, admitted defrauding the Auckland University of Technology of more than $500,000.

Kirkpatrick is on bail and will be sentenced on October 6.

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