Reconsider hiring college hall out for arms auction says old boy priest

arms auction

A priest who is a former pupil of St Patrick’s College Wellington has asked the college to reconsider hiring out its hall for an arms auction.

The auction features high-powered semi-automatic weapons and military memorabilia adorned with Nazi insignia.

Monsignor Gerard Burns says while the arms auction – to be held this weekend at the Kilbirnie school’s hall – was entirely legal, his argument was a moral one.

He urged all Catholics – including the college – to more deeply consider Pope Francis’ call to look at different ways conflict could be resolved using active non-violent protest.

St Patrick’s rector Neal Swindells said the school had hosted the Militaria auctions for about 25 years without incident or outcry from parents or students.

Police would be present at the auction, which took place on a weekend during the school holidays.

Swindells said the hosting of the arms auction was a non-issue that sent no message at all to students about gun culture.

Education Ministry deputy secretary Katrina Casey said the ministry had not received any complaints about the event, and policies around the hiring of school halls were for boards of trustees to make, in compliance with relevant laws.

Burns made his appeal after attending Tuesday’s blockade of the annual New Zealand Defence Industry Association forum at Westpac Stadium with about 300 other activists.

As well as being the Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Wellington, Burns has a lifelong commitment to the social justice movement, to the rights of indigenous peoples and involvement with actions for peace.

For some years, he worked as a priest among the poor in Peru.

He was an official observer at the first free elections to be held in East Timor after the withdrawal of Indonesia.

He has visited Gaza on two occasions, once as a tourist and once as part of an official delegation.

In 2009 he took part in a controversial Wellington protest against Israeli killings in the Palestine territory of Gaza. The protest saw a mixture of blood and red paint spread on an Israeli memorial plaque.

Burns is a Master of International Relations (Victoria University)  and has a Diploma in Te Ara Reo Māori (Te Wānanga o Aotearoa).

He is on the governance board of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and President of Caritas Oceania, a member of the Representative Council of Caritas Internationalis.

He has been appointed by Pope Francis to the Executive Board of Caritas Internationalis.

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