Senior priest faces fraud probe

By Kurt Bayer

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The fraud squad is investigating one of Christchurch's most senior Catholic priests over claims of missing cash in his parish.

Father John Fitzmaurice, the parish priest for Sacred Heart church in Addington, was suspended from duty last month over alleged "financial irregularities".

Now, police have launched a probe into Father John, who also ministers to the ministry in Hoon Hay, after a complaint was laid by Catholic Bishop of Christchurch Barry Jones.

Acting Senior Sergeant Hamish Wilson said: "We received a complaint at the start of the week and we are investigating it. There appears to be some substance in it."

News of Father John's suspension was revealed in a letter from Bishop Jones which was read out to masses on Sunday, August 28.

He said it was his "painful duty" to inform the diocese that Father John had been suspended "from all priestly ministry".

Bishop Jones said: "Financial irregularities in areas of his responsibility have been discovered and are being looked into further."

He said the financial irregularities were in areas Father John was responsible for, adding: "This is not a very good experience at all. Everyone is disappointed."

Bishop Jones produced another letter to be read out at masses earlier this month. It stated: "It is now with great sadness that I inform you that I have placed the matter with the police. I took this step because of financial irregularities in areas for which he has been responsible.

"The police will follow their own procedures and make their own investigations. Because of this, I am not able to provide further information or make further comment."

Calls to Father John were not returned.

Father John has been chairman of the diocese council of priests and administrator of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

In July, Jonathan Kirkpatrick, an Anglican priest, admitted defrauding the Auckland University of Technology of more than $500,000 and is awaiting sentence.

-APNZ

- APNZ

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