The Catholic Church lost a legal luminary when Msgr David Price passed away on February 3, a day after his retirement as judicial vicar for the Tribunal of the Catholic Church in New Zealand took effect. 

Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn said although Msgr Price, 77, had been unwell for some time, the death was unexpected.

Msgr David Price
Msgr David Price

“Msgr David was a highly respected, internationally acknowledged canon lawyer who had just
retired as the judicial vicar for New Zealand. He was a much loved priest  of the diocese of Auckland,” Bishop Dunn said in a statement.

“We owe him a great debt for his work for the Church in the field of canon law in New Zealand, Australia and further afield, and for his pastoral work for our diocese. May he be at peace in the fullness of God’s love and life.”

Msgr Price was a “revered member” of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand, said CLANZ president Sr Maria Casey.

He served the tribunal in New Zealand for 46 years and CLANZ for 44 years.

In 2011, he received from CLANZ the prestigious Owen Oxenham Memorial Award for canonical excellence.

Last year, he was made honorary lifetime member of the organisation.

In a statement, Sr Casey said Msgr Price’s contribution to CLANZ was “inestimable”.

“He was, at various times, a member of the executive, vice president and president at the time of the silver jubilee of the society.  He wrote many articles for the society’s journals and made numerous scholarly presentations at conferences. He was always available to give sound advice and share his knowledge of canon law,” she said.

At a requiem Mass on February 9 at Owairaka, Bishop Dunn noted he was concelebrating with a significant number of “canon law dignitaries” from New Zealand and Australia.

Hamilton Bishop Emeritus Denis Browne and Toowoomba Bishop Robert McGuckin were among the concelebrants.

Fr Anthony Malone, OFM, Msgr Price’s colleague at the tribunal, gave the eulogy.

“When David was much younger, he was amusingly called ‘the Perry Mason of the South Pacific’,” said Fr Malone, drawing laughter from the congregation.

He likened Msgr Price’s life to that of a tapestry with a deep green background which represents his New Zealand heritage.

He said woven through Msgr Price’s tapestry were a glinting silver wire which represents scholarship, yellow gold wire for priesthood, blue for his love of law and purple for the honours bestowed on Msgr Price by the Catholic Church.

Fr Malone said Msgr Price was gifted with a photographic memory.

Msgr Price studied for priesthood at Holy Name Seminary in Christchurch and later at Holy
Cross in Mosgiel. He also earned a degree from the Catholic University of America.

“David was a member of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. David was one of the editors [of] the English translation of 1983 Code of Canon Law,”
Fr Malone added.

Msgr Price was ordained priest by Bishop John Kavanagh in Christchurch on December 22, 1964. He was made monsignor in 1991 and Protonotary Apostolic, the highest honour that can be given to a member of the diocesan clergy, in 2001.

“Henceforth, David was the Right Reverend Monsignor, both titles David rarely used. However, [those titles] represent the New Zealand Church’s genuine appreciation
of David’s wisdom,” said Fr Malone.

“David’s tapestry reflects a life lived with total integrity and honesty,” he said.

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