Banished Guam Bishop Attends Rome Celebration
By Mindy Aguon
Guam Daily Post
May 7, 2018
|ROME: A screen grab from the Vatican News broadcast of Pope Francis speaking at the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Neocatechumenal Way in Tor Vergata, Rome, on May 5. Photo courtesy of Tim Rohr via Vatican News|
The Vatican may have stripped former Guam Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of his title following a canonical trial, but Apuron continues to wear his bishop robe as he attended the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Neocatechumenal Way in Tor Vergata, Rome, on Saturday.
Apuron appears seated among cardinals and bishops on the stage holding a cane, in a video posted by Vatican News. Father Edivaldo Da Silva-Oliviera, who is listed as a priest "on mission" from the Archdiocese of Agana, was seated next to Apuron as they listened to Pope Francis deliver an address to the crowd.
The event celebrated the Neocatechumenal Way, one of the Catholic Church's biggest and most contentious missionary movements.
Pope Francis, in his May 5 message, urged the Neocatechumenal Way not to impose pre-established models or have fixed mindsets or theories.
During his address, the pope urged the movement to respect different cultures and not try to conquer souls as it spreads the faith around the world, according to the Vatican News.
"We go forward together, without isolating ourselves or imposing our own pace, united as a church, with pastors and all our brothers," Pope Francis told the crowd. "(Jesus) does not say: conquer, occupy, but rather 'make disciples,' that is, share with the others the gift you have received."
Guilty verdict against Apuron
In March, a Vatican tribunal returned a guilty verdict and found Apuron guilty of certain, unspecified allegations.
He appealed the guilty verdict by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Apuron has maintained he is innocent and has said he's relieved that the tribunal dismissed the majority of the accusations against him. He said he looks forward to proving his innocence in the appeals process.
The appeal, if accepted by the Vatican, could put a stop to the imposed penalties that would have stripped Apuron of his title and banished him from Guam.
The Vatican did not specify which accusations they found Apuron guilty of, only confirming he was found guilty of "certain" of the accusations.
Allegations of child sex abuse
Apuron left the island in 2016 after child molestation charges against him surfaced. He's accused of sexually assaulting four altar boys when he was a priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Agat. A fifth victim, Apuron's nephew, Mark Apuron, more recently came forward and accused his uncle of raping him in the Chancery bathroom in 1989 or 1990 when he was a teen, Post files state.
Local blogger Tim Rohr said he believed Apuron's attendance at the Neocatechumenal Way event is "evidence" that the former archbishop made a deal with the NCW to "take care of him."
Archbishop Michael Byrnes halted the formation of new Neocatechumenal Way communities across the island in March 2017, saying the pause was necessary to review the Catechetical Directory of the NCW and to ensure that catechists are sufficiently formed and certified for their important role.
Byrnes, at the time of imposing the pause, acknowledged the many appeals from a significant number of the faithful about the way the Eucharist is celebrated by the NCW.
It's unclear if Byrnes has lifted the halting of the communities.
Apuron had come under fire by Rohr and the Concerned Catholics of Guam for secretly deeding the Yona seminary property to leaders of the NCW and refusing to comply with the Holy See's instructions to rescind and annul the deed.
The property was later returned to the archdiocese and is going to be put up for sale in an effort to help the archdiocese raise money for the settlement of more than 150 child sexual abuse lawsuits.