Guam – Guam Catholics are reeling from the decision to close the National Museum of the Cathedral-Basilica.
The announcement was made during Sunday Mass yesterday when parishioners were told the museum would be closed, indefinitely.
Church officials were seen boxing and carting off the exhibits yesterday afternoon. A sign on the museum door explained that the closure was “due to changes in administration.”
The closure follows last week’s decision by Archbishop Anthony Apuron to remove Monsignor James Benavente. Msgr. Benavente was the Director of Catholic Cemeteries, Rector of the Cathedral with responsibility for the museum.
The National Museum was one of Msgr. Benavente’s projects.
Archbishop Anthony Apuron attempted to justify Benavente’s removal citing an audit in January that showed financial mismanagement. Others have defended Benevente’s management of the cemeteries, saying financial problems cited in the audit existed before Benavente took over.
In a statement on Friday, Benavente said he pleaded to be presented with written allegations of financial mismanagement in order to respond to them before being removed. But he says “the lesser road was taken,” leading to his ouster and fanning division within Guam’s catholic church.
Benavente started the National Museum to showcase artifacts from Guam’s rich catholic history. It housed the collection of the late Msgr. Oscar Calvo, including the cassock of the blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, and the sword that martyred him. It also displays the alloy bell that hung in the cathedral’s steeple the day Guam was invaded by Japanese forces in 1941.