New archbishop arrives, prepares for permanent leadership

By Janela Carrera
Pacific News Center
November 28, 2016

Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes spent his morning meeting with local clergy members for a "morning of recollection."

Guam - It's an historic day for the catholic community as Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes arrived guam this morning, welcomed by some dignitaries, including Governor Eddie Calvo.

But his arrival is marked by some troubling times within the catholic community as it prepares to face legal battles over decades of alleged sexual abuse, some from the former head of the church, Archbishop Anthony Aapuron. Byrnes arrived at 1 am and at 10 am he was already on his first task, meeting with local clergy.

"Mainly I joined them at benediction and then we had mass, celebrated mass together, which was, I was really grateful. That was my first encounter with my brother priests," said Byrnes.

Archbishop byrnes talked about his mission here and why Pope Francis sent him.

"That is one of the things that the holy father invited me to focus on, for healing. In fact the term that, well, actually, one Cardinal Filoni mentioned, to be a bridge, to reunite and solidify the unity of the catholic community," he told us.

But Byrnes will have much on his plate. He will be the leader of a church that's been hit with 10 lawsuits, 9 of which are for civil claims of institutional sexual abuse. There remains a strong dissension toward Apuron as weekly protesters call for his defrocking. And although he's unilaterally abolished the neocatechumenal way leadership from ownership of the Yona seminary, there remains a division between the two factions.

"I understand that there's been a kind of polarization around Archbishop Apuron, which is undrstanabe when something as shocking as those kind of allegations come out," noted Byrnes.

"Neocatechumenal way is a movement within the church that's been highly valuable throughout the world. So I don't think it's a question of removal in any sense, more of a question--I know that because, this is part of that polarization, I think. The archbishop was so closely aligned that--which I know has been a great blessing to him in his life--but then again the polarization that happens in this kind of situation, it doesn't nuance, right?" he stated. "It doesn't make careful distinctions, so everything gets kind of painted one way and so I wanna embrace what is here in the island; all of our different spiritualities."

The incoming archbishop says he has not met with any of the former Redemptoris Mater Seminary board of directors or guarantors prior to their termination.

PNC: "So when you removed the board, you had no communication with them whatsoever prior to that action? What made you decide to?"

"It was strong encouragement from Rome to make, to settle the clarity of ownership. And I think that, again, that's one of those things that has a reverberation, has a ripple effect that is inevitable but not intended and so it was just, 'let's make sure that it's crytal clear' and then work together going forward on the relationship of the seminary," he said. 

PNC: "As the single board member now with the power to make decisions, would you allow the RMS corporation to continue to house a seminary at that property?

"Well what I have to do is look at the statutes for the RMS seminary, because they are unique," he replied.

Meanwhile, Byrnes expressed his desire to learn more about the local culture, but also notes that he's worked with other cultures while in Detroid as well.

"The closing song [at this morning's mass] was in Chamorro and I looked at it and I said, 'Oh, I'm gonna have to learn this,'" he quipped. "But Detroit is very multicultural and so the thing that I'm used to living with people Middle East, from the Philippines and other places so the first thing in my mind, the first thing that helps me is saying, 'Okay, they have different sets of assumptions than I do. That helps. That's my starting point."


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