The Archbishop of Guam says he welcomes the appointment of a Vatican administrator to run the Catholic Church on the Pacific island pending an investigation into allegations he sexually abused young boys decades ago.
In a video shot in St Peter’s Square, Archbishop Anthony Apuron spoke to his flock in the US territory, insisting he remained their archbishop and was a “victim of these horrible calumnies.”
Pope Francis on Monday named a high-ranking Vatican official to take over the Agana archdiocese after abuse allegations against Archbishop Apuron resurfaced in recent weeks. A church deacon publicly accused Apuron of keeping the archdiocese’s sex abuse policy weak to protect himself.
The Archbishop has accused the deacon, Stephen Martinez, of being part of a conspiracy to oust him over a soured property deal.
In mid-May, Roy Quintanilla told the media that Archbishop Apuron had sexually abused him 40 years ago when Quintanilla was a 12-year-old altar server at a parish in Agat, Guam, where then-Father Apuron was pastor, Catholic News Service reports.
In a statement released hours later, Archbishop Apuron said, “To be absolutely clear and to avoid any misinterpretations of my statement, I deny all allegations of sexual abuse by Roy Quintanilla.”
In late May, the archbishop traveled to the Vatican. He was still in Rome on June 6 when the Vatican press office announced Pope Francis had appointed Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, to be apostolic administrator of the archdiocese while not removing Archbishop Apuron from office.
“The archdiocese and the archbishop warmly welcome Archbishop Hon to Guam,” a statement on the archdiocesan website said.
Three days earlier, the Archdiocese of Agana issued a statement announcing it had hired a US-based lawyer and investigator to look into and possibly respond to comments about the archbishop made by Deacon Stephen Martinez, who had served as coordinator of the archdiocese sexual abuse response team until 2014.
“To state, as Stephen Martinez did, that the sexual abuse policy of the archdiocese was kept weak purposefully by the archbishop to protect himself is a calumny of such magnitude that the only avenue, which we are following, is recourse to the civil and canonical legal processes to address these intentional lies,” the archdiocese’s statement said.
The statement added that Martinez also had been the archdiocesan finance officer, a position the statement claimed he handled with “glaring incompetence.”