Archdiocese Responds to Protests, Says It Was "Extremely Saddened" by "Angry Mob"
By Jasmine Stole
Pacific Daily News
April 29, 2016
A week after Catholic Church members held a heated protest at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, the Archdiocese of Agana’s Chancery Office issued a statement responding to that demonstration and others at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Yona.
The archdiocese was “extremely saddened by the actions of the angry mob” at the airport, the statement said.
Giuseppe Gennarini, Claudia Gennarini and the Rev. Angelo Poschetti arrived the night of April 21. The Gennarinis and Poschetti are high-level U.S.-based officials of the Neocatechumenal Way.
“This is not the warm Hafa Adai spirit that the Chamorro people are well-known for,” the archdiocese’s statement said.
The Gennarinis and Poschetti are board of guarantors members for the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Guam.
The protesters on April 22 and this week on Tuesday and Thursday, also demonstrated along Chalan Seminariu near the seminary in Yona.
A group of protesters on Tuesday walked onto the seminary’s grounds. Police were eventually called and the group was escorted off the seminary property.
On Thursday, three police officers from the Agat precinct were directed to observe the protesters, allowing them to demonstrate while also ensuring that unauthorized persons stayed outside the seminary gates, off private property.
In response to the protests at the seminary, the archdiocese statement said, “Like any other institute of learning, similar to the Guam public school system, the Catholic school system or the University of Guam, interference with the learning environment of its students cannot be tolerated by the presence and disruption of protestors.”
The police were called on protesters “to ensure that the peace was maintained in light of obvious concerns raised by the conduct of this group just a few days earlier,” according to the archdiocese.
Protesters, including Sen. Tom Ada, who participated in Thursday’s demonstration, have criticized Archbishop Anthony Apuron for not addressing their concerns directly, either in person or in writing.
The archdiocese, however, remarked in Thursday’s statement that Apuron visited all 26 parishes in 2015 and met with parishioners and many of the same people protesting, permitting questions.
“While the archbishop has not granted a private meeting to these protestors, the opportunity was given to all Catholics in the archdiocese to directly communicate their concerns to the archbishop,” the statement said of meetings held last year.
While the Rev. Edivaldo da Silva Oliveira has said that the protesters and “the actions of the angry mob” do not represent feelings of the majority of local Catholics, Ada strongly disagreed.
“I know at the protest at the airport, one of the representatives of the seminary kind of dismissed the group and said, ‘Oh they’re just 1 percent of the entire Catholic congregation,’ and basically just dismissed what these people are doing,” Ada said. “That is not right at all.”
Even if it’s 10 people demonstrating in public, the 10 people “represent many more behind them,” Ada said.
Catholic blogger Tim Rohr released a statement in response to the statement from the archdiocese. Rohr points out that the release bears the Archdiocese of Agana letterhead but was emailed to reporters by Oliveira.
“We are thus left to conclude that the pastor of Chalan Pago parish is now a Chancery official running the Archdiocese of Agana,” Rohr said in his statement.
“Where is the archbishop? Where is the vicar general? Where is chancellor?”
Rohr also responded to the archdiocese’s comments on protesters “disrupting” learning at the seminary and said the comparison to other learning institutes was “pathetic.”
“Three is no law forbidding a parent to walk into a public school office and ask to see the principal. What’s more, the comparison to interfere with the education of school children is absurd,” Rohr said.
Oliveira and Archbishop Apuron are members of the Neocatechumenal Way, a group within the Catholic Church whose members meet in small community settings to worship and learn teachings of the bible. Members of the Way emphasize it is not a movement.
Members of the local Catholic community have taken issue with how the Way’s members appear to separate themselves from other practicing Catholics and Apuron’s ties with the Way have angered some local Catholics.