VATICAN CITY (RNS) Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes has been appointed by Pope Francis to take over the Archdiocese of Guam, effectively replacing an embattled archbishop accused of sexually abusing altar boys.
The Vatican announced the pope’s decision soon after he left Rome Monday (Oct. 31) for his two-day official visit to Sweden to mark the start of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. But there was no indication of whether Guam’s Coadjutor Archbishop Anthony Apuron had resigned or when the succession would take place.
A coadjutor usually has the automatic right to succeed a bishop.
In September, the special investigator appointed by the pope to look into allegations of abuse urged the Vatican to remove Apuron after he refused to stand down voluntarily.
“I can assure you that the gravely serious allegations against Archbishop Apuron will continue to be dealt with by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which will hold a canonical trial,” wrote the investigator, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, in a statement read at services in the island’s 26 Catholic churches in September. “His Holiness, Pope Francis, is monitoring the proceedings.”
Francis has pledged zero tolerance for clerical sexual abuse and set up a commission to tackle the issue and ensure the protection of minors.
Hon’s statement was titled: “Putting the house in order without burning it down.”
Francis asked Hon to investigate claims against Apuron, who heads the Archdiocese of Agana in the U.S. island territory.
The allegations date back to the 1970s and involve at least four former altar boys who claim Apuron, then a parish priest, molested them.
(Josephine McKenna is RNS’ Vatican correspondent)