Guam's New Archbishop Shares First Impressions of the Island

By Krystal Paco
December 5, 2016

[with video]

If you haven't had a chance to meet Guam's new archbishop, here's a closer look at the man who was appointed by the Vatican to lead local Catholics into a new chapter of history.

Archbishop Michael Byrnes has been on the job ten days, with most of his visit to the island being committed to listening. "I would hope that the people of Guam understand that I'm here to listen first," he emphasized. He also said, "Last week was kind of a whirlwind, and I'm kind of coming out on the other side. It's a great opportunity to get acclimated in a very quick way." He also quipped, "I think I'm almost over the jetlag, which is good."

Guam's new coadjutor was appointed by the Vatican on October 31 and is scheduled to make the permanent move to Guam in mid-January. While he won't disclose too many details of his meetings with local priests as well as other groups affiliated with the church, Catholics can be confident in his character - which he describes as fair and straightforward.

"When I was vice rector at the seminary, I always wanted the men to know I was fair and I will speak straightforward, but I would be fair. And I think that's important in relating to such a large diocese that we have here," Byrnes stated.

Already the archbishop appears to be bringing Catholics together. Over the weekend, dozens of members of the Concerned Catholics of Guam organization and the Laity Forward Movement, who conduct weekly pickets in front the Cathedral-Basilica, put down their signs early enough to attend his Sunday morning mass. Referring to the protest, Byrnes said, "They were saying it's not against me, which I appreciate. But they have a certain conviction about this and they're trying to communicate to Rome in this respect, so I get that."

As we've been reporting, picketers have had most of their demands met, including the restoration of Monsignor James Benavente and Father Paul Gofigan and the takeback of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary. All that's left of their demands is that Archbishop Anthony Apuron be defrocked. While Archbishop Byrnes doesn't have any update on Apuron's canonical trial in Rome and likewise couldn't comment on whether they've spoken recently, he jokingly says he "sees" his predecessor every day.

"I'm sitting in his office, so I feel like he's around. I see his picture," he said.








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