Guam Marks Milestone When New Archbishop Arrives

By Haidee V Eugenio
Pacific Daily News
November 26, 2016

Archbishop Michael Byrnes

Guam’s Catholic Church marks a leadership milestone after 30 years when Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes arrives on island Monday.

As coadjutor archbishop, Byrnes succeeds Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron, who has been the highest leader of the church since 1986 but was placed on leave by the Vatican on June 6. Apuron is facing a canonical trial over multiple allegations of sex abuse of altar boys when he was a parish priest in the 1970s.

Apuron, 71, still holds the title of archbishop but he has not been back on Guam since May.

Byrnes, 58, will reside in the episcopal residence, which Apuron has “vacated,” according to a sign at the entrance to the archdiocese’s chancery office in Hagatna.

Pope Francis sent Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai as temporary administrator of the church on Guam in June, but made a more permanent leadership solution on Oct. 31 with Byrnes’ appointment.

Hon, the secretary for the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples, will return to Rome on Dec. 1.

One of Byrnes’ first events will be to join the Catholic clergy of Guam in a day of recollection on Monday morning, followed by two public events on Wednesday.

About 85 percent of Guam’s population is Catholic.

“The Archdiocese of Agana is opening a new chapter in its history and invites everyone to two islandwide celebrations Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, related to Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes, our new coadjutor archbishop,” the archdiocese said in a statement Friday.

A “Prayer for the Beginning of the Episcopal Ministry of Coadjutor Archbishop Byrnes” will take place at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagatna.

At 6 p.m. on the same day, the archdiocese starts the Novena of Masses honoring Santa Marian Kamalen, also at the cathedral-basilica.

Byrnes will celebrate his first islandwide Mass with Hon, visiting bishops and priests, the archdiocese said. “The celebrations will culminate with the islandwide commemoration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, which includes the celebration of Santa Marian Kamalen and the close of the Golden Jubilee of the Archdiocese.”

Since May, former altar boys have started publicly alleging Apuron of raping or sexually abusing them in the 1970s when Apuron was still parish priest at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Agat.

In September, Guam became one of the U.S. states and territories to lift all civil statute of limitations for those accused of abusing children, as well as the institutions that supported them.

Since then, nine lawsuits have been filed against Apuron, other former and current priests, the Archdiocese of Agana and up to 50 others who allegedly may have helped, abetted, concealed or covered up the clergy sex abuses. More lawsuits are expected to be filed in the weeks ahead, said Attorney David Lujan.

Even before setting foot on Guam, Byrnes used his authority from the Vatican to regain full control of the church’s seminary property in Yona and cut the seminary’s ties to the Neocatechumenal Way. The Way, as it is also called, is a movement within the Catholic Church but whose beliefs and practices conflict with that of Catholics on Guam.

‘Beginning of healing’

The archdiocese’s religious sisters wrote separate letters to Pope Francis for appointing Archbishops Hon and Byrnes, and to Byrnes and Hon for accepting the pope’s appointments.

“Our suffering local church is beginning to heal from the deep divisions and lack of trust experienced by the faithful,” the religious sisters told the pope and the two archbishops. “This Year of Mercy draws us closer to our loving God of Mercy as we continue our journey to becoming a vibrant church that suffers with the weak and vulnerable, and offers the hope and the joy of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”

They thanked Byrnes for his courage in answering the call to come to Guam.

“We also extend to you our Chamorro hospitality and open our doors for you to feel right at home on our beloved island of Guam,” the sisters wrote.

They also credited Hon for laying the foundation for the start of healing in the Catholic Church on Guam.

“We are deeply grateful for your courageous and generous response to your call to come and lead our archdiocese at the peak of its internal and external divisions,” the sisters wrote. “You will soon be leaving us, but you will always be remembered in our prayers. You have been a loyal and precious friend to all of us.”

The Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagatna as shown in 2014. (Photo: PDN file photo)









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