Vatican removes Guam bishop for sexual abuse

Vatican removes Guam bishop for sexual abuse

Apuron is appealing the Vatican's decision, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

A lay group that agitated for Apuron's removal, "Concerned Catholics of Guam", was decisive in pushing for an investigation into the archdiocesan seminary, which Apuron opened in 1999 and moved to a seven-hectare property thanks to a $2 million (U.S.) anonymous donation.

Archbishop Apuron, was placed on leave by Pope Francis in June 2016 after a series of accusations of abuse of young men in the 1960s and 70s were made public.

Archbishop Byrnes, who is empowered by the Vatican to oversee the Archdiocese of Agana but has not yet formally succeeded Apuron, has since implemented new child protection policies in the archdiocese, including a safe environment program that Byrnes said will "help to instigate a change of culture in our Archdiocese".

"While I am relieved that the tribunal dismissed the majority of the accusations against me, I have appealed the verdict", said a statement from Apuron distributed by his Guam attorney, Jacqueline Terlaje.

In the past, when an elderly or infirm priest has been convicted by the Vatican of sexually abusing minors, he has often been removed from ministry and sentenced to a lifetime of "penance and prayer".

Archbishop Apuron is among the highest-ranking church leaders to have been tried by the Vatican for sexual offenses.

The most recent allegation against Apuron was made January 10 by the archbishop's nephew, Mark Apuron.

"The sentence remains subject to possible appeal", the Vatican statement said.

Under an appeal, the penalties could be suspended until the case is resolved.

The archbishop denied the allegations in a statement January 18, writing, "God is my witness: I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me, including this last one", according to Guam Pacific Daily News. The pope named an apostolic administrator to run the archdiocese for several months and then named Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes, a former auxiliary bishop of Detroit, to take over.

He will keep his office while the appeals process continues.

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