A group of local Catholics says a number of their concerns have still not been addressed by the Archdiocese of Agana leadership. The group is continuing to call attention to its concerns publicly even as the church enters the Lenten season.
Yesterday, Feb. 10 was Ash Wednesday which marked the start of the Lenten season – 40 days of fasting, prayer and repentance for Catholics. Thousands of Catholics attended Ash Wednesday Masses throughout the day yesterday. Each year, the village parishes schedule multiple Masses during the day to accommodate a large number of church-goers, with the larger parishes offering as many as six Ash Wednesday Masses. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics.
An estimated 85 percent of the local population is Roman Catholic.
“We’re really strong in our faith,” said Lou Klitzkie, a member of the Laity Forward Movement, who also attended Ash Wednesday Mass yesterday. “We don’t want to lose our Catholic church.”
The Laity Forward Movement has organized several silent protests in front of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña, the latest of which took place Jan. 31.
Some women in the Laity Forward Movement go to Mass every day, Klitzkie said.
LFM and the Concerned Catholics of Guam have publicly opposed recent decisions made by Archbishop Anthony Apuron.
Their concerns are the same as they were last year and the year before that, the group said, adding they want to see Monsignor James Benavente reinstated as rector at the Cathedral-Basilica and Rev. Paul Gofigan reinstated as pastor of Santa Barbara parish in Dededo.
The group also has said the property on which the Redemptoris Mater Seminary sits is not controlled by the archdiocese, a claim the archdiocese has denied.
Klitzkie has said in previous interviews that the group is protesting because they are disappointed with the lack of leadership from Apuron.
Last week, LFM members also handed fliers to parishioners outside Nino Perdido y Sagrada Familia Church in Asan after Mass “to bring awareness to the Catholics about the problems we are encountering,” Klitzkie said.
“A lot of the people do not read JungleWatch and we have to tell them what is happening in the Catholic church,” she said. “If the archbishop did something wrong, then we’ve got to find out why he did all these things.”
JungleWatch is a blog run by Tim Rohr, realtor and outspoken Catholic who has followed and detailed issues between the Neocatechumenal Way and the local archdiocese. Rohr has blogged extensively about Archbishop Apuron and other top church officials.
The archdiocese has defended actions Rohr has criticized, publishing statements contradicting Rohr about the ownership of the seminary and the reason for Benavente’s removal. The statements have also been published in the U Matuna Si Yu’os, the archdiocese's weekly publication.
Most recently in November, the U Matuna published government documents that the archdiocese said proves the archbishop is in control of seminary property, which Rohr staunchly refuted.
The Concerned Catholics hired a lawyer whose legal opinion differed from the archdiocese officials’ statements.
Not yet spoken
Kliztkie said her group has not yet spoken directly with Apuron. The group will continue its hand billing efforts and silent protests, she said. On Tuesday, the group held a fundraiser because they intend to hire a lawyer.
“We did very well for our first one and we're planning on another fundraiser,” Klitzkie said. In 2014, at least 300 people signed a Concerned Catholics petition supporting the group's mission of financial transparency, and about 70 people have attended past LFM silent protests.
Apuron removed Gofigan and Benavente from their positions as pastor of Santa Barbara and as rector of the cathedral, respectively.
In July 2014, Apuron removed Benavente as rector of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica. At the time, Apuron said in a statement that a financial review of two entities showed that the entities under Benavente showed poor financial accounting, prompting the archbishop to make a change in administration.
Benavente issued a counter statement, denying Apuron’s allegations.