The Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau and Southeast Alaska, the Rev. Edward J. Burns returned this past weekend from a meeting of new bishops from around the world with members of the Vatican.
Burns stated that his visit "was a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate our union and connection with the Vatican and the successor of St. Peter - Pope Benedict XVI."
"It was an honor and a privilege to tell the Holy Father that he had the fidelity and prayers of the Catholic Community in the Diocese of Juneau," he added. "It was also a blessing for me to come into contact with bishops from around the world - to learn of the challenges that they face and to share what life is like in Southeast Alaska."
The conference, held Sept. 21 at Castel Gandolfo and sponsored by the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, convened 104 bishops to discuss such issues such as social communication, bio-ethics, family and marriage, priestly ministry and vocations, diocesan governance, immigration, oriental churches, lay ministry, religious life, the Mass, evangelization, spirituality, cultural issues and inter-religious dialogue, to name a few. The new bishops met with Pope Benedict XVI and members of his curia.
The Pontiff spoke to the newly appointed bishops about their role as shepherds of the local church and their responsibility for the people of God entrusted to their care. In particular, the Pope stressed the importance of prayer and the care of priests.
"Being available for his people should not bring a bishop to diminish his availability for the Lord," he said.
The 10-day conference included sessions with the leading cardinals of the various Vatican offices which included the heads of the Secretary of State, Congregation for Catholic Education, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and the Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Seven bishops from the United States attending the conference were invited to the home of Miguel H. Díaz, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.
Burns had worked with Díaz when the Ambassador served as Dean of Studies at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Florida. The conversation between the U.S. Bishops and the Ambassador included issues relative to Immigration, health care, U.S. and Vatican relations, etc. Díaz was appointed by the Obama administration to serve the United States in this capacity.
Burns was installed as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Juneau on April 2.
The Diocese of Juneau represents more than 10,000 Catholics in Southeast Alaska. Sixteen parishes and missions are served by nine active priests and one retired priest.