The Archbishop of Wellington has apologised for the actions of a clergyman who attacked a memorial to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin.
In a statement released yesterday, Archbishop John Dew moved to distance the church from Father Gerard Burns' actions during a Gaza conflict protest in the capital on Tuesday.
"Father Burns was acting on his own initiative, and did not carry out his protest as a representative of the Catholic Church in New Zealand," Archbishop Dew said.
"I offer an apology for Father Burns' actions and make this apology to all those who were offended at the desecration of the Rabin monument."
Auckland's Catholic Bishop Patrick Dunn has also joined calls for Father Burns to apologise for desecrating the memorial to Mr Rabin.
Father Burns - the parish priest of Te Ngakau Tapu in Porirua - splattered red paint with a drop of his own blood over the memorial during a 1000-strong protest in Wellington on Tuesday.
The protest was against Israel's air and ground offensive in Gaza. Demonstrators were calling on the New Zealand Government to end its neutral stance.
Father Burns' actions have been criticised by the newly formed group Kiwi Friends for Israel, which says although he was entitled to an opinion, he crossed the line in putting blood and paint on the memorial.
The group has called for him to apologise, a call that is backed by the Bishop of Auckland, the Most Rev Patrick Dunn.
Speaking as a long-time advocate for interfaith dialogue and co-operation, Bishop Dunn told the Herald Father Burns' actions were "irresponsible and have potentially done great damage".
"I believe that Father Gerard Burns owes an apology to the New Zealand public, the Jewish community and to his colleagues in the Catholic clergy."
David Zwartz, a former honorary Israeli consul to New Zealand, has reportedly lodged a complaint with police over the vandalism.
Kiwi Friends for Israel said although the damage was already done, Father Burns should do the decent thing and apologise.
They said Father Burns' actions had been reported internationally and were not a good look for New Zealand.
Father Burns could not be reached for comment last night.
Protesters at the ASB Classic tennis tournament yesterday called on Israeli player Shahar Peer to quit the competition over the Gaza offensive.
A group of about 15 people waved shoes and shouted for Israel to "free Palestine" and to take their "hands off Gaza", but were told to "go home" and "get a life" by spectators.