Hundreds of people gathered Thursday afternoon at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church to witness and participate in the installation of the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Juneau.
Bishop Edward J. Burns received the crosier, a sign of his pastoral office, from Archbishop Roger Schwietz of Anchorage shortly after the 3 p.m. ceremony began and officially took over the position that has been vacant since Bishop Michael Warfel was installed at a post in Montana in January 2008. Burns will oversee about 7,300 Catholics in 11 parishes, which includes nine priests, three deacons and two other clergy.
"It is a great honor to stand before you as the fifth bishop of Juneau, Alaska," Burns said to a voracious round of applause.
Pope Benedict XVI appointed Burns on Jan. 12 after the Diocese of Juneau had been without a bishop for a year. Burns was officially ordained as a bishop on March 3 at Saint Paul's Cathedral in Pittsburgh, where he is from.
Thursday's ceremony, which was held on the anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, was attended by a number of bishops, priests and deacons from around the region, state and country. Also in attendance was Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. Sambi is the Pope's main diplomatic representative in the country.
"At this important moment of your life and that of the Diocese of Juneau, we offer you our heartfelt congratulations and personal best wishes," Sambi said to Burns.
During the ceremony, Sambi read an English translation of the Apostolic Mandate written by Pope Benedict XVI and sent to Juneau for the installation ceremony.
"Be steadfast in faith, joyful in hope and especially fervent in charity, the queen of all virtues. In addition, may a piece of Christ be with you and the ecclesial community in Juneau," Sambi translated from the Pope's message.
After the Apostolic Mandate was read, the neatly written scroll was shown to the archbishop, to the diocesan College of Consultors and to the chancellor of the diocese before it was carried around and shown to all those in attendance.
"We all gather in this ritual, which is a very ancient ceremony filled with symbol and at the same time so tied to the Catholic Church," Burns said after being officially installed.
He commented on the importance of a document signed by the pope in Rome and sent to Juneau to help celebrate a new bishop for the diocese.
"I have accepted this honor, this challenge, this adventure and I so look forward to working with all of you along with my brothers that together we as church can bring forth and manifest God's kingdom," Burns said.
Burns was born Oct. 7, 1957, in Pittsburgh. He was ordained a priest in 1983 for the Diocese of Pittsburgh and has held many positions within the church. Burns most recently served as rector of St. Paul Seminary in suburban Pittsburgh.
Burns said prior to taking the post in Juneau, he read about many explorers who came to Southeast Alaska and spiritual adventurers who first brought the Catholic faith to the region. He remarked on Alaska's first Catholic Church, established in Wrangell in 1879, and the establishment of the Diocese of Juneau by Pope Pius XII in 1951.
"I stand before you wanting to continue the exploration, an exploration of my own soul and my relationship with Jesus Christ," Burns said.
He said he is looking forward to the "time of formation" to learn his new responsibilities and duties that it takes to be a bishop. At one point in the ceremony, Burns mistakenly said Pittsburgh instead of Juneau as he spoke about the new diocese he has been assigned, which drew some light chatter from the audience.
"You are looking at a rookie bishop," he quipped as people laughed and applauded.
Burns told the crowd he plans to travel to parishes throughout the diocese and meet with people in Ketchikan, Klawock, Hoonah, Sitka, Yakutat and other villages.
"I'm looking forward to gathering around the tables of this diocese - the kitchen tables, the dining room tables ... in all the small villages. I look forward to coming and gaining a sense of what it is to be a bishop," he said.
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.