A Blenheim parish priest has died on a flight taking him on an eagerly awaited trip to Rome.
Father John Pearce, 68, from catholic church, Star of the Sea Marlborough, died as his plane was taxiing for take-off at Marlborough Airport, Blenheim.
Efforts were made to revive the popular parish priest, but he died on board on Sunday afternoon.
Parish manager Ginetta Petersen says the parish had been “very shocked” by the news.
“We are all very shocked. He was very much into faith communication, he wanted to bridge the gap between faiths and religions.
“It is with great sadness and shock we announce that Star of the Sea Parish priest Father John Pearce CP, passed away as a result of a medical event in Blenheim at 1.30pm …”
Father John was on his way to Rome as part of a committee organising a landmark celebration for the Catholic church.
He was set to join his peers to help arrange a Passionist 300-year jubilee, to be held in Italy next year.
The flight to Auckland was delayed for two hours while passengers disembarked.
Funeral arrangements are being arranged and Father John’s body will be returned to Sydney, where he is originally from.
He moved to Blenheim in January 2017.
Ginetta says Father John had seemed in good health and had given a “great sermon at masses this weekend.
Father John was recently involved with the vigil held in Seymour Square for victims of the mosque attacks in Christchurch.