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NZ Catholics pay tribute to leading historian

New Zealanders are mourning the tragic death of 58 year old Dr Michael King, who in 1997 published God's Farthest Outpost, the definitive history of the Catholic Church in the country.

Dr King and his wife were killed in a car accident on Tuesday. His death follows that of his great friend and one of New Zealand's greatest writers, Janet Frame, in January from cancer. Dr King, who was suffering from throat cancer, wrote Frame's biography.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said she was deeply distressed and described Dr King's death as a terrible tragedy.

As director of Catholic Communications at the time, Lower Hutt parish priest Fr James Lyons invited Dr King to write the history of the Church in NZ, and worked closely with him on the project.

He said: "His open-mindedness and the non-judgemental approach produced a work of lasting significance. He wrote with wonderful sensitivity to the many strands of thought and outlook that give life to the diversity that is Catholicism, while maintaining the highest standards of scholarship and impartiality in his work."

Fr Lyons said Dr King "proudly acknowledged his Catholic origins", seeing them as "one of the foundation pillars that upheld meaning in his life".

"He instinctively knew there was a unique story in each person that, when told, would add a thread to the tapestry of creation, revealing the artistry of the Creator. Through his love of history Michael King became a master storyteller. We needed him. We cannot but miss him."

Michael King- RIP 30 March 2004
Historian Michael King and wife killed in car crash (NZPA/ 31/3/04)
Michael King's death 'terrible tragedy' (NZPA/ 31/3/04)

Clark leads tributes to Michael King (NZPA/ 31/3/04)
King and wife believed dead before car caught fire (NZ Herald 1/4/04)
Michael King (New Zealand Book Council)

2 Apr 2004