When Archbishop Michael Byrnes returns to Guam from the Vatican, he will have the pallium, which has been blessed by Pope Francis. The insignia symbolizes his authority and unity with the pope.

The pallium, which is worn around the shoulders and neck, and embroidered with six black crosses, dates back centuries and is made of lamb's wool. The material is part of the insignia's meaning which is also to symbolize the archbishop’s role as the shepherd of Guam's Catholic faithful, according to the Vatican.

Byrnes will be vested with the pallium by the Nuncio of the Pacific Islands on Guam before local Catholics. The date of that ceremony has not yet been determined, said Tony Diaz, spokesman for the archdiocese.

Byrnes, with a shaved head, was among 31 archbishops from the United States, Africa, Asia and other parts of the world who received their palliums after the pope celebrated Mass on Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica.  

“The pallium recalls the sheep that the shepherd is called to bear on his shoulders. It is a sign that the shepherds do not live for themselves but for the sheep,” Pope Francis said, according to an English translation of the pope's message in the Catholic News Service's reporting.

“It is a sign that, in order to possess life, we have to lose it, give it away,” he added.

In his homily, Pope Francis stressed the importance of “a personal encounter with Jesus.”

“We may be curious about Jesus, or interested in Church matters or religious news. We may open computer sites and the papers, and talk about holy things, but this remains at the level of what people are saying,” he said, according to the Catholic News Service.

'Jesus does not care about polls'

“Jesus does not care about polls, past history or statistics. He is not looking for religion editors, much less ‘front page’ or ‘statistical’ Christians. He is looking for witnesses who say to him each day: ‘Lord, you are my life,’” Francis said, as reported by Catholic News Service.

Byrnes filled the official role of Guam’s archbishop after a canonical trial led to a guilty verdict against Anthony Apuron, who was Guam’s archbishop for nearly three decades. Apuron had been accused of sexually assaulting underage boys, including one of his nephews, when he was a priest. He appealed the verdict but it was upheld in April.

Byrnes takes on the leadership of the Archdiocese of Agana as the Guam Catholic Church faces financial turmoil, diminishing church attendance and more than 200 sex abuse lawsuits. The church had to seek bankruptcy protection in federal court as it tries to reorganize and sell off assets that aren’t churches or schools.

In a statement, Byrnes, in part said, “the role of the Shepherd is to carry the most vulnerable of the sheep on his shoulders and in a particular way our attempts to bring a measure of justice and consolation to those who have suffered abuse at the hands of clergy in the past.” 


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