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Hong Kong’s Vatican official off to Guam

HONG KONG (SE): The most senior Chinese official in the Holy See, 65-year-old Hong Kong-born Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai, who is currently the secretary to the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, arrived in Guam on June 8 as the apostolic administrator of the diocese of Agaña.

He will be in charge of the diocese while Archbishop Anthony Apuron is under investigation over charges of sexual abuse.

However, his appointment is not simply a stop-gap measure, as he comes as a trouble-shooter charged with the difficult challenge of restoring unity and harmony among a now troubled and somewhat divided group of people.

The Guam Daily Post reported that the appointment comes after a succession of allegations against the local bishop have been made. 

One of the alleged victims, Walter Denton, gave a press conference outside the diocesan offices in Hagatña on June 7, claiming that he was sexually abused in April 1977, when the bishop was his parish priest.

In a press release, Archbishop Hon said that he will act with urgency to promote and endeavour to restore unity and harmony in the diocese.

He said in the press release, “The apostolic administrator, after carefully discerning the needs of the archdiocese will take all necessary decisions to assure that this goal is being implemented.”

He also confirmed that Pope Francis made the appointment for the good of the people of Guam. Seventy-year-old Archbishop Apuron had requested that an administrator be appointed to the diocese while he is under investigation.

The archbishop denies the claim and says that he welcomes the investigation, as he is not guilty.

Guam is a tiny unincorporated and organised United States of America (US) territory in the north-west Pacific.

Although the archdiocese is an ecclesial territory of the US Church, Agaña is a member of the Regional Bishops’ Conference of Oceania and the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific.

Archbishop Hon’s appointment was announced on June 6, two days after Pope Francis published new norms making the process of removing bishops guilty of negligence in dealing with sex abuse cases from office, easier.

The terms of the appointment of Archbishop Hon allow Archbishop Apuron to remain as the bishop of Agaña during the time he is under investigation.

Catholic missionaries first came to Agaña from Spain nearly 350 years ago. It became a US territory after the Spanish-American War in 1898 and has a total population of around 184,000, with a Catholic population of 157,000.

The inhabitants are mostly Chomorro people, among whom the Filipino lay missionary, St. Pedro Calungsod, ministered and eventually met his death, together with the most famous of the early missionaries to come to the island chain, Father Diego Luis de San Vitores, in 1672.

Both are recognised as martyrs for the faith.

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