The Pope has appointed a new coadjutor bishop of the Catholic Church in Guam, the US island territory in the Western Pacific, while a suspended archbishop faces a Church trial for allegedly sexually abusing altar boys, a Church leader said today.
Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, the temporary apostolic administrator, told a news conference that Pope Francis has given Bishop Michael Jude Byrnes, the auxiliary bishop of Detroit, special rights to carry out all the duties as archbishop effective immediately.
Guam had been under an apostolic administrator since June when Archbishop Anthony Apuron, 71, was relieved of his duties after several former altar boys accused him of child sexual abuse. He is facing a canonical trial in the Vatican.
“Monsignor Byrnes has the complete right and responsibility over everything the archdiocese, including its financial administration, the discipline of the clergy, and its pastoral life,” Archbishop Hon said.
Coadjutor bishops also have succession rights when bishops resign, retire or are removed. Archbishop Hon said his role as apostolic administrator had now ended, but that he would remain on the island and assist Bishop Byrnes with a smooth transition.
Bishop Byrnes is expected to arrive at the end of November, and will lead parishioners on the closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Guam diocese.
In a statement, Bishop Byrnes said he was humbled by the Pope’s decision and knew there were challenges ahead.
Archbishop Apuron has denied the allegations and refused to step down. He has not been charged criminally.
The allegations got little attention when they first came to light in 2014 but resurfaced this summer after a deacon accused Archbishop Apuron of keeping the archdiocese’s sexual abuse policy weak to protect himself.
Also on Tuesday, a lawyer for four former altar boys filed a new civil lawsuit against Guam’s Church, Archbishop Apuron and Fr Louis Brouillard over child sexual abuse allegations.
Three of the men, now in their 50s, were altar boys in the 1970s under Archbishop Apuron, who was a pastor at the time. They allege Apuron molested them during sleepovers.
The fourth man, now in his 70s, was a student and former altar boy in the 1950s when he said Fr Brouillard sexually molested him. Fr Brouillard, 95, admitted to the Associated Press in August that he may have molested 20 boys during his time in Guam.
Guam passed a law in September lifting time restrictions of civil lawsuits against alleged perpetrators and their institutions on child molestation cases.
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