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Apuron’s conviction draws mixed reaction from community

HAGÅTÑA — Archbishop Anthony Apuron, the former head of Guam Catholic Church who faced multiple sex abuse allegations, is appealing the Vatican’s guilty verdict against him.

The apostolic tribunal’s ruling, which was announced Friday, drew mixed reactions from Guam’s Catholic faithful.anthony Apuron front

“I can sum it up in three words: it’s about time,” Tamuning resident Antoinette Schwab said of Apuron’s conviction.

Anthony ApuronAnthony Apuron

But the archbishop’s loyal supporters stand by him. “He is a victim of lies and character assassination. He has to be given a chance to appeal,” said Doroteo Armando, a store clerk in Yigo.

Some greeted the Vatican’s announcement with indifference. “It didn’t surprise me at all,” said an art teacher at a Catholic school, who requested to be identified only by his initials R.S. “It has been happening all over the world. It is a sad phenomenon. It’s really unfortunate that the church is infested with people who have no morals.”

A five-member Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, found Apuron “guilty of certain of the accusations.” The panel has ordered Apuron’s removal from office and banned him at the Archdiocese of Guam.

The decision was announced in a brief press release, which did not specify the allegations and the number of charges lodged against the disgraced prelate.

“The sentence remains subject to possible appeal. In the absence of an appeal, the sentence becomes final and effective. In the case of an appeal, the imposed penalties are suspended until final resolution,” the Vatican’s press release reads.

Apuron, who was removed from office in 2016 following a series of sex abuse charges against him, maintains his innocence.

“While I am relieved that the tribunal dismissed the majority of the accusations against me, I have appealed the verdict,” Apuron said in a brief statement.

“God is my witness; I am innocent and I look forward to proving my innocence in the appeals process. Today, my prayers are with the Church in Guam, which has been suffering greatly.”

Archbishop Michael Byrnes said the long-awaited conclusion of the canonical trial “is very much welcomed.”

“It has been a long and painful period for our Church and our island community in general,” Byrnes said.

The Vatican’s ruling, he added, places “a monumental marker in our journey toward healing as one Church, one people in God. I pray that all people would embrace this call for healing.”

Apuron is still facing civil cases in a federal court lodged by former altar boys — Roy Quintanilla, Walter Denton, Roland Paul Sondia and the late Joseph “Sonny” Quinata represented by his mother Doris Concepcion — who alleged Apuron molested them when he was a parish priest in the 1970s. In January, Apuron’s nephew Mark Apuron, alleged his uncle raped him when he was a teen.

“I offer prayers and thanks as well to Mark M. Apuron, for his brave decision to come forward regarding his uncle,” Byrnes said.