Looking back with Hon

By Neil Pang
Guam Daily Post
November 29, 2016

RETURNING: Apostolic Administrator Savio Hon Tai Fai is pictured in the Archdiocese of Agana Chancery Office lobby on Tuesday, Nov. 29. Archbishop Hon will be returning back to Vatican City tomorrow.

"I learned that we need to have more pastoral concern and compassion for those wounded by the church. ... Fundamentally, I feel that most of them still have great love for the church. They protest in order to purify the church." – Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Agana

After nearly six months of serving as the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Agana, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai is scheduled to depart Guam and return to his office in Rome sometime tomorrow. But before bidding his final farewells, Hon sat down with the Post to talk about his time serving the local Catholic faithful.

Hon was named apostolic administrator sede plena (when a bishop's see is vacant) for the Archdiocese of Agana by the Vatican on June 6 following an announcement that Pope Francis had relieved Archbishop Anthony Apuron of his duties and appointed an interim administrator for the archdiocese.

When asked if he felt he was prepared for the controversy that truly blossomed after his arrival, Hon stated he was not, but that he was able to tackle the problems facing the archdiocese with the help of local clergy and the laity.

A collaborative effort

Hon said he approached the situation on Guam by enlisting the help of the many who came forward and by starting first at the level of the local parishes and then moving up to the larger issues surrounding the seminary and then the archdiocese.

He added that while he would not have done anything differently in his approach over the past six months, he did learn something from his experience.

"I learned that we need to have more pastoral concern and compassion for those wounded by the church," Hon said.

Stating it was not his place to judge and that initially he had difficulty in distinguishing between the true allegations of victims from the false, Hon explained that during his time on Guam, he came to realize and understand that it was not only the vocal victims who needed healing and closure, but that he needed to find a way to address even those victims who desired to maintain a semblance of confidentiality.

The learning curve was steep, however, and his difficulty with acclimating to the local community was exacerbated by him not being from here, but he was able to accomplish what he did only by the compassion of those around him.

"To tell the truth, when I came here I was a stranger, (I did) not know much about the island or the complexity of the situation from the past few years," he said.

Unique among dioceses

Hon told the Post that he felt like Guam was unique among dioceses where he had served in the centrality of the family and the deep roots that people had in the church. He said he came to realize that some of the church's staunchest supporters came from some of its harshest critics.

"Fundamentally, I feel that most of them still have great love for the church," he explained. "They protest in order to purify the church."

Hon said it was after he realized this that he came to not only accept the protestors, but to listen to them.

The work ahead

While Hon's mission might be complete, the wounds opened in recent months have only just begun to close. When asked about the possibility for reconciliation between members of the Neocatechumenal Way and traditional Catholics, Hon replied that ultimately only time would tell.

"I am not in a position to make a prophecy," he stated. "I feel that there is a certain mindset in certain communities which is not in favor of recognizing what is the legitimate authority of the church, but that is a complicated issue and will take time."

Hon explained that being a member of the Catholic Church means recognizing there is a legitimate authority that must be followed regardless of what might be said or requested by others.

Using the example of a seminarian who is sequestered in study and who must obey the orders of his superiors even if it means ignoring family and friends, Hon said it comes down to recognizing and following the legitimate authority of the church.

"If you follow Jesus then you have to follow the church authority, be obedient," he explained. "I think this is one of the issues that a certain group has to rethink about their mindset."

Parting messages

Hon said he had two messages for Guam's Catholics. The first was to be one in Christ. In reference to the second, Hon said he wanted to repeat the analogy used by newly appointed Coadjutor Archbishop Byrnes during his first press conference this past Monday.

"I like the analogy used by Archbishop Byrnes," he said. "In this island I find a jewel of faith, but unfortunately its splendor has been covered, darkened by some controversy or some questions. We work together, we polish it up, we remove this unnecessary dirt (to reveal) the splendor again."

To the community of the Neocatechumenal Way, Hon said he had another message.

"Number one, I pray for them, I really pray for them," he said.

Hon's second message to NCW followers was to be more open and inviting and that, in addition to having good intentions, the leadership within the NCW needed to develop a willingness to talk and open lines of communication. He explained that while he had undertaken efforts to contact NCW leadership, he was unable to really establish a dialogue with them.

Hon said he had gained not only a great deal of knowledge and experience from his time in Guam, but that he had made a number of new friends as well. In the days leading up to his departure, Hon said he had received numerous invitations to gatherings and parties. He said he had been touched by all the encouragement he received from the people of Guam and that his door would always be open to visitors to the Vatican.



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