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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Apuron facing canonical trial, new archbishop named

The Vatican is bracing for the canonical trial of Anthony Apuron, who is facing allegations of sex abuse lodged by former altar boys, Archbishop Savio Hon Ta-Fai said Tuesday, Nov. 1.

“Actually, they just formed all the conditions for trial. I am just waiting to get updates,” Hon said in a press conference, where he announced the appointment of a new archbishop for the scandal-ridden Archdiocese of Agana.

The Vatican has appointed Detroit Regional Bishop Michael Byrnes as the coadjutor archbishop, who is likely to replace Apuron.

“Coadjutors have successions rights when bishops resign retire or are removed. This appointment suggests a more permanent solution,” said Hon, who will return to Rome, when Byrnes comes to Guam by the end of November.

“When the ability of a diocesan bishop for some reason is so weakened as not able to conduct his pastoral governance, the Holy Father may appoint a coadjutor with special faculties to take over the pastoral governance of the diocese concerned,” Hon told a press conference held at the Dulce Nombre Basilica Cathedral in Hagatna.

The Vatican has relieved Apuron of his pastoral duties amid mounting allegations that he molested altar boys when he was a priest at Mount Carmel Parish in Agat in 1970s. Apuron has also been criticized for issuing a deed of restriction that virtually turned over a multi-million dollar Church property in Yona to the Neocatechumenal Way Movement. Catholic activists have called for his defrocking.

“(Bishop Byrnes) is aware of the current situation of the local Church and asks me to follow the course of actions already taken up by the Archdiocese to serve the local Church with devoted brothers and sisters and especially those who have recently been appointed in various posts as my collaborators, whether lay, religious or clergy,” Hon said.

The outgoing archbishop said the restoration of “unity and peace has begun” during his brief stint on Guam. “We have a long journey to walk through,” he said. “With the arrival of Most Rev. Venerable Brother Archbishop Byrnes, we endeavor to close one chapter and to open a new one with renewed vigor or faith, hope and most of all love.”

Byrnes is coming to Guam amid the lawsuits filed by former altar boys against Apuron and the Archdiocese.

Byrnes has been serving as a regional bishop in the Archdiocese of Detroit since his ordination as a bishop in May 2011.

"I am humbled by the Holy Father’s decision to entrust the Archdiocese of Agana to my pastoral care," Byrnes said in a statement. "The great spiritual writer, Blessed Columba Marmion, wrote, 'The task of the priest is to give Jesus to the world.' That is what I have endeavored to do as an auxiliary bishop here in Detroit, and I look forward to giving Jesus to the thousands of people who live in the island of Guam.”

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