Protests pause to recognize Byrnes

By Neil Pang
Guam Daily Post
December 4, 2016

ON HIATUS: Protestors relinquish there picket signs early after a brief protest outside the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica yesterday morning. Protestors broke their picket line to attend morning Mass in a show of good faith to the newly-arrived Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes.

The ever-present picket line that has become a mainstay of morning Mass outside the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica yesterday presented an olive branch to newly-arrived Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes when protestors concluded their march early in order to attend Mass.

The protests, which have been ongoing since June, have taken issue with a number of concerns including the property dispute over the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Yona, the ousting of Archbishop Anthony Apuron, the passage of child sexual abuse Bill 326 and even outgoing apostolic administrator Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai when he failed to respond to their complaints.

In the past weeks as church leadership addressed protestors’ concerns, members of the lay organizations Concerned Catholics of Guam and Laity Forward Movement have focused their grievances and stated they will continue protesting until Apuron is formally removed of his title as Archbishop of Agana.

'Let's give him a chance'

While leadership within the lay organizations have stated their intent to continue the protests, they also say they have expressed their hope by putting their protests on hold for Byrnes’ first Sunday Mass.

“Let’s give him a chance,” said former Sen. Bob Klitzkie of Byrnes' appointment.

Klitzkie and his wife, LFM founder Lou Kliztkie, have been ardent supporters of the weekly protests and are two of the protests’ chief organizers.

Lou Klitzkie told the Post that one of the main points they wanted to get across with their actions yesterday was to communicate to Byrnes that their protests are not directed at him.

In recognition of the fact that Apuron’s fate now lies in the hands of the Vatican and his canonical trial, Lou presented the media with a letter addressed to Byrnes.

“We want to assure you that our picketing is not directed at you and what you have accomplished,” the letter read. “While we remain ever vigilant, we look forward to working with you.”

More than a symbolic gesture

In the time leading up to his arrival to Guam, Byrnes has taken definitive action to resolve some of the ongoing contentions, including the resolution of the RMS property dispute in Yona. Byrnes amended legal documentation that would have restricted the use of the former Hotel Accion property in Yona to the RMS corporate entity and the Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores Theological Institute of Oceania and further took measures to clarify that the Archdiocese of Agana is the sole owner of the property.

Since arriving, Byrnes’ message has been one of hope and unification. That message, however, was very much the same as the one purported upon the arrival of Archbishop Hon in June as the apostolic administrator.

Within weeks after arriving in June, protestors dissatisfied with Hon’s performance started marching during the Sunday picket holding signs displaying: “Hon ???” and “Hon – No More $$ for RMS.”

While protestor leadership called yesterday’s hiatus “more than a symbolic gesture,” only time will tell how Guam’s concerned Catholics will respond to Byrnes’ authority and whether Byrnes will be able to bridge the divides within Guam’s largest religious community.



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