Hagatna (Guam) (AFP) - The new head of the Catholic Church in Guam welcomed Saturday the guilty verdict against his predecessor, Anthony Apuron, who faced multiple sex abuse charges, as Apuron announced plans to appeal the finding.
"This long-awaited announcement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is very much welcomed," Archbishop Michael Byrnes said after a Vatican tribunal ruled Apuron should be removed from his office and barred from living in Guam.
Apuron had been accused of molesting altar boys when he was a parish priest during the 1970s. The allegations emerged in 2016.
The Holy See said Apuron had been found guilty of some of the accusations against him.
"It has been a long and painful period for our Church and our island community in general," Byrnes, Apuron's replacement in Guam, said.
He said the tribunal's decision represents "a monumental marker in our journey toward healing as one Church, one people in God."
Byrnes expressed his gratitude "to the courageous individuals and their families who came forward to share their agonising stories of being abused by then Father Tony Apuron in years past."
In a brief statement, the Vatican said Apuron was guilty of "certain accusations," but did not specify the nature of offences.
Apuron said he was appealing the Vatican's verdict.
"While I am relieved that the tribunal dismissed the majority of the accusations against me, I have appealed the verdict," Apuron said in a statement released by his lawyer, Jacqueline Terlaje.
"I look forward to proving my innocence in the appeals process."
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 teen.