Unholy row over finances spoils Easter celebrations

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The Independent Online
AS the annual Crucifixion procession concluded at Westminster Abbey yesterday, all appeared peaceful and harmonious. But behind the scenes a most unholy row was rumbling on.

Among the religious figures leading the procession on Good Friday was the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr Wesley Carr, the man at the heart of the internal dispute at Westminster Abbey. Dr Carr has failed to resolve an acrimonious fall-out between himself and the abbey's long-serving organist and choirmaster following his accusation of "irregularities" in the choir accounts.

While Easter services at the abbey will go ahead as usual, they will be without the guiding hand of the organist, Dr Martin Neary, who is regarded as one of the finest church musicians in Britain and who was decorated by the Queen for his musical direction at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales

Dr Neary and his wife, Penny, who worked as his assistant, have been questioned by Dr Carr and Canon Middleton, the Canon Treasurer, with reference to the accounts for all the choir's tours and recordings over the past 10 years, and have been suspended from duties pending a decision.

Dr Neary has denied the allegations in what Frank Field, the minister for welfare reform and a devout High Church Anglican, has dubbed "a kangaroo court". As a Royal Peculiar, Westminster Abbey is outside the diocesan system and is under the personal jurisdiction of the Queen. Dr Neary, 58, is expected to appeal against his dismissal to the Queen, and it is thought that the Queen will appoint the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, to act on her behalf.

Dr Carr caused another upset at the abbey in the run-up to Easter by announcing last week that he plans to introduce an upper age-limit of 75 for volunteers, most of whom are pensioners.

A number of elderly volunteers are reported to be distressed by the changes, which are to be implemented for insurance reasons.