New bishop to lead beleaguered Guam archdiocese

Archbishop Michael J Byrnes   cassock and zucchetto Bishop Michael Byrnes, who was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Hagatna Oct. 31, 2016. | Archdiocese of Detroit.

Pope Francis on Monday appointed Bishop Michael Byrnes as the successor to Guam's archbishop, who has been accused of sexual abuse of minors.

Bishop Byrnes has until now served as an auxiliary bishop in Detroit. His apointment as coadjutor comes with special faculties.

As Coadjutor Archbishop of Agaña, Bishop Byrnes possesses the right of succession and will automatically be appointed Archbishop of Agaña when it's current ordinary, Archbishop Anthony Apuron, retires.

Though he is still formally archbishop, Apuron was relieved of his pastoral and administrative authority in June. Since then, the Agaña archdiocese has been cared for by an apostolic administrator, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai.

"I am humbled by the Holy Father's decision to entrust the Archdiocese of Agaña to my pastoral care," Bishop Byrnes said upon his Oct. 31 appointment. "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."

The Archdiocese of Agaña serves Catholics in Guam, a U.S. island territory in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. Bishop Byrnes commented that "I have learned that the Catholic faith has long been embraced on the island, and the faith of the people is rooted in a rich history of devotion to Jesus and to His Blessed Mother."

"At the same time, there are always challenges to face," he added. "With my brother priests and deacons, with the catechists and other pastoral workers, and above all with the spiritual gifts of the People of God, I trust we will persevere in faith, hope and love, and will exercise the 'wisdom from above' to meet these challenges."

Bishop Byrnes was born in Detroit in 1958, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1996. He earned a doctorate in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and served as a pastor and as vice rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

He was consecrated a bishop and appointed auxiliary bishop of Detroit in 2011. As an auxiliary bishop, he has had oversight of the northeast region of the archdiocese and has directed its evangelization initiative and synod.

"Archbishop Byrnes has given exemplary pastoral service," reflected Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit. "Now God has chosen him for a challenging mission almost a half-a-world away. Pope Francis, in sending Archbishop Byrnes to Guam, has recognized that he possesses not only the talents, but above all the deep faith in Jesus Christ that make him suitable for this apostolic work. He goes with our love and our prayers."

In Guam, allegations against Archbishop Apuron, 70, surfaced in May with accusations from a former altar boy, who said that he was molested at age 12 when he spent the night at a rectory with then-Father Apuron. Other allegations have since surfaced, all of which Archbishop Apuron has denied.

Archbishop Apuron has also been acused of failing to implement strong policies on the handling of clerical sex abuse.

Guam's legislature is considering a bill which would strike down the current two-year statute of limitations for civil claims involving the sexual abuse of minors.

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