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How A Missed Phone Call Brought Edward Burns From Alaska To Be Bishop Of Dallas

Catholic Diocese of Dallas
Edward Burns previously led the Catholic church in Juneau, Alaska for seven years.

Edward Burns led his first Easter mass as the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas last weekend. He moved from Juneau, Alaska, a few months back, and he’s already making a mark. He started a task force on immigration and is leading a national effort to prevent  sexual abuse in the church.

Burns says he actually missed the phone call from the Vatican's ambassador. "I just thought it was another wrong number," he said. 

Interview Highlights: Edward Burns…

…On transitioning from Juneau to Dallas:

“It’s a vast difference. [In Alaska], we had a thousand islands and I had nine priests. There are no roads. You can’t drive to Juneau, you can only get to Juneau by air or by water. I come to the diocese of Dallas and I learned that there are no islands and all roads, so just trying to manage that is a challenge. But when people speak to me about the vastness, the number of people, I assure them. ‘You can only interact with one person at a time, one congregation at a time, one project at a time, so you just stay focused and lean into it.”  

…On the sanctuary city debate:

“What I’m weighing in on is not politics, it’s the very essence of faith, that Jesus Christ welcomed the stranger. I don’t know how everyone entered this country but I do know that when they’re here and as we look at them, we look at them as either our brother or our sister. There’s going to be a day that hopefully we’ll hear the words, ‘when I was hungry, you gave me food; when I was thirsty, you gave me drink; and when I was a stranger, you welcomed me.’ And therein lies the very essence of who we are.

[If sanctuary cities are penalized], one of the things [the diocese] will do is stay focused. In particular, families are important. When you have families that are ruptured and split, it has an effect on society. It’s important that we keep families together, all families.”     

…On combating sexual abuse in the Catholic Church:

“Since 2002 – it was here in Dallas – that the bishops created a charter for the protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults. Training for children, background checks for anyone coming into volunteer work and ministry and then, of course, a significant application process with psychological reviews for anyone that were to enter priesthood.

The last thing we can do is grow complacent. We cannot think like this is a thing of the past. We have to stay vigilant and I truly believe it’s a safer place now than ever before.”

Edward Burns is the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.