Is there a schism in Guam's Catholic church? - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Is there a schism in Guam's Catholic church?

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 by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Close to 300 people have signed off on a petition and letter that was sent to the archbishop hoping they'll see "their way". Yet another controversial document has been posted on the JungleWatch blog, which focuses on the dealings with the local Catholic church.

This letter was sent to Archbishop Anthony Apuron last Friday by former senator Tommy Tanaka, a parishioner from Saint Francis Church in Yona. "We want to respectfully advice the archbishop that the Parish of Saint Francis is not desiring having a neo priest assigned to it. we have seen the impact of other parishes where the priest from neo have been assigned and parishioners are confused and they go to other places and seeing that Yona has been a Capuchin parish since the early1950's we respectfully requested that it remain a Capuchin parish," he explained.

Tanaka, who was born and raised Catholic, and has been attending St. Francis Church in Yona for more than ten years he is one of almost 300 parishioners who hope the archbishop will see it 'their way'.  Although there has been no indication the archbishop plans to assign a priest from the Neocatechumenal Way, they are being proactive to ensure their church remain a "capuchin-pastored parish". Tanaka says with the Redempotoris Mater Seminary nearby they are asking the archbishop not to impose the way at St. Francis.

He explained, "My feeling personal feeling is Catholics are free to choose their path to God. but personally speaking I choose to continue to practice what I grew up with and I have no desire to seek a different way for me and therefore I have no desire for someone trying to bring a different path to god we're happy with the capuchins and we want to keep St. Francis parish capuchin that's our whole intent I have no problem with the way as a practice I just don't want it being imposed on St. Francis Church in Yona."

When asked if he feels like the archbishop is trying to impose the Way, Tanaka replied, "My feeling is he has been one-sided on this issue and I know he's actively pushing for the way and I just hope he will respect the wishes of parishioners."

This latest controversy in the church follows the removal of Monsignor James Benavente from as rector of the Archdiocese of Agana and the director of Catholic Cemeteries.  The archbishop through press releases and spokespeople have said he was removed allegedly for financial mismanagement. Several prominent people in the community including Tanaka disagree with the removal and the fact that Monsignor James was not given a chance to defend himself prior to his removal. Tanaka would not go so far as saying he believed the removal of Monsignor James was connected to the way, but does say the local Catholic church is divided.

"The Catholics are really torn right now we're really sad at what what's going and there' sonly one person who can it the archbishop he has to go back because the wedge has been the Neocatechumenal Way he has to address this problem here," he said. "This thing has gotten too far off track and the only one that can bring it back to the track is the archbishop and address all these issues himself personally because only he can put the church at peace again."
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