Seminary rector: Only Apuron can lift deed of restriction on church property
The rector of a seminary in Yona said Tuesday only Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron or his successor can lift the deed of restriction that gives the seminary and a theological institute the legal right to use the local Catholic church’s property.
The Rev. Pius Sammut, rector of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Yona, said the sole owner of the Yona property is the Archdiocese of Agana. Sammut said the archbishop who currently oversees the local archdiocese, Savio Hon Tai Fai, has said this repeatedly.
The deed restriction allows the Archdiocesan Redemptoris Mater Seminary to use the Yona property, Sammut said.
“The only one who can lift the deed of restriction is the ordained Archbishop of Agana, Mons. Apuron or, eventually, his successor,” Sammut told Pacific Daily News.
Proper legal action must be done in order for the Archdiocese of Agana to again take control of the property, said attorney and former island Sen. Robert Klitzkie.
Klitzkie has been a supporter of the causes of the Concerned Catholics of Guam Inc., a group that wants the archdiocese to again take full control of the Yona property. Klitzkie doesn’t identify himself as a member of the group.
Proper legal action, Klitzkie explained, includes having the RMS corporation’s board of directors adopt a resolution authorizing the lifting of the deed of restriction and the board of guarantors has to abide by that resolution.
Klitzkie said the four guarantors are Apuron and New Jersey-based high-level members of the Neocatechumenal Way — Giuseppe Gennarini, Claudia Gennarini and the Rev. Angelo Pochetti.
Hon has told the media he doesn’t know where Apuron is.
Apuron last made a visual public statement in early June in a recorded video message to members of the Guam community. In the video, Apuron appeared to be at the Vatican in Rome.
The Vatican placed Apuron on leave after former altar boys started publicly accusing him of sexual abuse. Apuron hasn’t been charged with any crime.
Pope Francis sent Hon to Guam in early June to temporarily administer the local Catholic church.
Hon issued a statement last week requesting the Redemptoris Mater Seminary and the community that controls it to voluntarily return the Yona property, instead of having the matter go to court.
Hon said while the Archdiocese of Agana acquired the property, its use has been conceded in perpetuity, meaning forever, to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary and The Blessed Diego Theological Institute in an unusual way.
The Concerned Catholics of Guam, which has repeatedly called for Apuron’s removal, said on Monday the Neocatechumenal Way actually owns and controls the seminary and property in Yona.
Sammut said the Neocatechumenal Way “has no authority or any say in this matter.”
The Neocatechumenal Way is a group within the Catholic church whose worship style differs from traditional Church practices. Other Catholics, including church members on island, have been critical of people part of the Way.
Sammut said per its own statutes, “the Neocatechumenal Way, being an itinerary of Catholic formation that is implemented in the dioceses through services freely given, has no material goods of its own.”
Sammut and Apuron are members of the Neocatechumenal Way.
He said he wasn’t consulted before Hon issued a statement on Thursday about the seminary and the property. Sammut said he hopes he will be able to do that in the future.
The Yona property, which used to be the former 100-room, oceanside Accion Hotel, is the local Catholic church’s largest asset, estimated anywhere between $40 million and $75 million.
The Archdiocese of Agana bought the property for $2 million more than a decade ago.
David Sablan, the newly elected president of the Concerned Catholics of Guam, said it’s preparing a lawsuit to help ensure that the Archdiocese of Agana takes back control of the Yona property.
Sablan said the lawsuit is an option on the table if the Redemptoris Mater Seminary Corp. does not do the right thing which is sign the deed to return the property back to the archdiocese.
Sammut said “the property cannot be returned because, as Mons. Hon said, it belongs to the archdiocese.”
“If you refer to the restriction of use, it was decided by Mons. Apuron to protect the seminary, a public juridic entity of the Church, which is carrying on the most important mission in a diocese, that of forming priests,” Sammut said. “For this very purpose, that of forming a seminary, the Archdiocese bought this property and the archdiocese did not pay a cent for it.”
A public juridic person is a legal entity under canon law that allows the Catholic church's ministries to function in the name of the Catholic church.
Sammut said from this institution or seminary, 17 priests and four deacons have been ordained.
Of them, 14 priests and four deacons are serving Guam, he added.
“As mentioned before, the Archbishop of Agana and his successors, being both the Sole Member of the RM Seminary and of the Archdiocese of Agana, is the only individual that can make this determination. I have no authority whatsoever to do this decision,” Sammut added
‘Never defied the pope’
Hon, in his statement last week, said the Holy See’s instruction for Apuron to rescind and annul the deed of restriction on the Yona property “has not been carried out accordingly.”
“Thus, I hereby sincerely ask the collaboration of all the faithful to act with obedience to the directive of the Holy See,” the archbishop said.
Sammut said members of the Neocatechumenal Way never defied the pope because they do not own anything.
“Archbishop Apuron never defied the Pope either, since the pope never said to the Archbishop to lift the deed of restriction,” Sammut said. “If you refer to the indication or request of a Congregation of the Holy See, I can only say that in the Catholic Church every Diocesan Bishop in the diocese entrusted to him has all ordinary, proper and immediate power, and that indications or requests of the Holy See need to be evaluated by the Bishop in the exercise of his pastoral function.”