Devoutly Catholic Guam celebrates Mass amid N. Korea threat

Across Guam — where nearly everyone is Roman Catholic — priests prayed for peace as residents of the U.S. Pacific island territory faced a missile threat from North Korea.

Archbishop Michael Byrnes instructed priests in Guam’s 26 churches to offer prayers for peace between the two nations and courage for military forces on the island. He asked for prayers for “just resolution of differences, and prudence in both speech and action.”

Guam’s Catholic faithful attended Sunday Mass after several days of dramatic rhetoric between the two nuclear-armed nations. President Donald Trump threatened swift and forceful retaliation against North Korea, declaring the U.S. military “locked and loaded.”

There hasn’t been any widespread anxiety among Guam residents, even after Pyongyang vowed to complete a plan to attack waters near the island by mid-August.

Monte Mesa, who is vice-chairman of the Guam Visitors Bureau, said the Mass at Blessed Diego de San Vitores Catholic Church in Tumon was comforting. He said after the crowded Mass the message from the readings and the gospel “tell our people that God is in control of what is happening and if we have faith and believe in God all this rhetoric and war possibility here on Guam will be taken care of by God.”

The Rev. Jose Antonio “Lito” P. Abad said during the Mass that he woke up Wednesday morning reading the breaking news on his phone that Guam was a missile target from North Korea. He felt anxious, he told the congregation during his homily, but that saying prayers gave him peace. He asked his parishioners to pray that God will give them strength.

The church is a major influence on the devout island where 85 percent of the population is Catholic. The church is grappling with numerous lawsuits alleging sex abuse in a growing scandal that has rocked the tiny…

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