Rome Newsroom, Mar 28, 2023 / 04:55 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes of Agaña, Guam.
Byrnes, 64, has led the Catholic Church on the U.S. island territory since the 2019 conviction of its former Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron for the sexual abuse of minors.
Pacific Daily News, a Guam-based news site, reported in December 2022 that Byrnes was on extended leave from his duties as archbishop for unspecified medical reasons.
Father Romeo Convocar, who has been overseeing the archdiocese in Byrnes’ absence, in December asked for continued prayers for the archbishop who “has always appreciated the kindness of the people.”
On March 28, Pope Francis appointed Convocar apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Agaña until the nomination of a new archbishop.
According to Pacific Daily News, Byrnes left Guam in late June 2022.
Byrnes, who is from Detroit, Michigan, was appointed co-adjutor archbishop of Agaña in October 2016, after Guam’s Archbishop Apuron was accused of the sexual abuse of minors.
Though he was still formally archbishop, Apuron had been relieved of his pastoral and administrative authority in June 2016. Byrnes succeeded Apuron in April 2019.
Apuron was found guilty of several abuse-related charges by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in March 2018. The conviction was upheld on appeal in February 2019, and the final sentencing was announced April 4, 2019.
Apuron was deprived of his office as Archbishop of Agaña; forbidden from using its insignia, including the bishop’s miter and ring; and banned from living within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese. He was not removed from ministry and remains a priest under church law.
In January 2019, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in federal court in the wake of numerous sex abuse allegations. The move, decided upon in November 2018, allowed the archdiocese to avoid trial and to begin to reach settlements in the abuse lawsuits, which amounted to over $115 million.
Following Apuron’s sentencing, Archbishop Byrnes offered his “deepest apologies” to the victims, whom he listed by name.
“I am truly sorry for the betrayal and severe anguish that you suffered and continue to suffer,” Byrnes said in the 2019 statement.
Byrnes called the abuse of minors “a deep and sorrowful shame,” adding that the Church on Guam must “ensure that the horrible harm inflicted to the innocent is never repeated.”
“Our focus shall remain on making penance and reparation in our Church on Guam, attending to justice for the numerous victims of clergy sexual abuse on Guam and continuing our mission to proclaim the love of God to the people of Guam and the Marianas,” he said, according to the Pacific Daily News.
Byrnes was an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan from 2011-2016.
As a priest, he served as a parish pastor and as vice rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
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