NZ priest, Fr Gerard Burn, has defended his actions in smattering blood and paint over a statue of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin while an Israeli official has criticised Vatican Cardinal Renato Martino after he described Gaza as like a "concentration camp".
Fr Burns said it was a symbolic act and nothing compared to the killing taking place in Gaza.
About 1,000 people marched through central Wellington protesting against Israel's air and ground offensive in Gaza and calling on the New Zealand Government to end its neutral stance.
Fr Burns, the parish priest of Te Parisi o te Ngakau Tapu in Porirua, was one of the protest leaders and smeared the blood and paint on the Yitzhak Rabin peace memorial.
Mr Rabin was prime minister of Israel from 1974-1977 and again from 1992-1995. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 and was assassinated by a right wing Israeli radical in 1995.
Kiwi Friends of Israel called for Fr Burns to apologise for his actions.
"Kiwi Friends of Israel strongly supports the right of all New Zealanders to have a robust debate on the rights and wrongs of Israel's policies but attacking peace memorials isn't legitimate behaviour.
"The desecration is doubly contemptible given Mr Rabin's lifelong commitment to peace and stability in Israel and Palestine."
But Fr Burns said Mr Rabin's commitment to peace was not "lifelong", but rather he "converted" to peace later in life.
The paint was a "symbolic action" and a "denunciation of the (Israeli) state, not an attack on the Jewish faith.
"I have a great esteem for the Jewish faith. I mean the founder of Christianity was Jewish ... but, the Israeli state is another beast altogether."
The prophets of Judaism would be criticising Israel's actions, Fr Burns said.
An Israeli flag was also burnt at the protest.
There was no comparison between the burning of a flag, or painting of a monument and the killing taking place in Gaza, he said.
As for the New Zealand Government's response, Fr Burns believes "not taking a side is taking a side. It's to say you accept what's going on."
Catholic Church spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer told The New Zealand Herald priests were entitled to their individual views.
The New Zealand church's stance echoed Pope Benedict's address last week.
"We feel that in the interests of peace and dignity dialogue must take place, and the killing must stop, from both sides."
Israel slams Martino
In breaking news, Israel on Wednesday slammed a senior Vatican official for comparing the Gaza Strip to a "concentration camp," saying the comments were "based on Hamas propaganda."
"Making remarks that seem to be based on Hamas propaganda while ignoring its numerous crimes ... does not bring the people closer to truth and peace," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.
Cardinal Renato Martino, the Vatican's justice and peace minister, was quoted by the online Italian daily Il Sussidiario as saying the conditions in Gaza "increasingly resemble a big concentration camp."
Priest who smattered blood on Israeli memorial defends his actions (3 News NZ)
Israel slams Vatican official for Gaza 'concentration camp' jibe (Africasia)