With the Oct. 31 announcement of Bishop Michael Jude Byrnes' appointment as coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Agana, the Post contacted Byrnes yesterday morning Guam time and spoke with him to get a better understanding of the newest leader of the Catholic Church on Guam.
Below are the archbishop's responses to the Post's questions:
Question: Is there any update on your expected date of arrival on Guam?
Answer: Yes, my initial visit is now scheduled for Nov. 28, 2016. I will stay in Guam for three weeks and return back to Detroit during the holiday season to visit my family. Around mid-January, I will have a specific date set when I arrive on Guam, of when I expect to move into my residence on Guam.
Q: What was your reaction upon being chosen by Pope Francis to head the archdiocese on Guam?
A: I was shocked. The first thing I asked was "Where is Guam?" I had no idea I was appointed for the position.
Q: With news of the appointment, some in the local community feel that an outsider would not be able heal the deep divisions and issues the Catholic Church is dealing with on Guam. Others feel that your appointment is a welcome breath of fresh air. What initial steps will you take to heal the community?
A: First and foremost to listen to and to talk with the congregation. I cannot come in with preconceptions of any issue. I need to listen [about] what we can do to resolve and heal the wounds left in the community.
Q: Have you encountered and experienced controversial issues in the community during your time as a member of the clergy?
A: Yes, in 2011 when a priest in our diocese went before a canonical trial after being accused of sexual abuse and misconduct. I have experience in dealing with financial issues and personal issues that were controversial within our congregation of 1.3 million Catholics, in a metropolitan area of 3.4 million people.
Q: Are you familiar with canonical trials?
A: Yes, I have been an observer but more often I was a witness. A canonical trial is a tribunal of several judges that consider the evidence presented affording due process to the accused. We cannot presume to pronounce guilt. A trial of this nature takes considerable time. Rest assured that the verdict of the trial will be public. I speak with Archbishop Hon almost daily and he asked my permission on certain matters within the diocese. I have not reviewed any financial information yet until I'm better acquainted in my new role. I will delegate certain responsibilities of the faith to local clergy in the interim. I am the archbishop and will take responsibility and care for the diocese.
Q: According to your biography, you are an avid marathoner. Guam has many weekend 5K races and marathon events. Will we be seeing you out running on the road?
A: I had hip surgery last year after an injury from, of all things, playing golf. So, my running days are over but I still do take part in triathlons – swimming in the Detroit river for one.
I'm quite informal. It's past 5 p.m. here and I've been away on a retreat with our youth to Washington, D.C., where we visited the national cathedral, and the Pope John Paul exhibit, having lunch with them, being on a bus with them.