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What Happens Now that Bishop Burns has been Reassigned to Dallas?

By: Deacon Mike Monagle

Now that Bishop Edward Burns has been reassigned to the Diocese of Dallas, Texas, some parishioners are asking, “What happens to the Diocese of Juneau?” The answer is that it’s business as usual with a few exceptions.

According to canon law, when a bishop is assigned to a new diocese, he continues as bishop of his former diocese, or see, until he is installed in the new one — but with some limitations on his governing authority.

According to Fr. Patrick Travers, Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Juneau, Bishop Burns remains the Bishop of Juneau until his installation in Dallas on February 9, 2017. However, his authority is limited to those of a diocesan administrator. The bishop can delegate to his priests, but he cannot reassign them, make new appointments, or create new positions. Nor can he initiate any new changes. “Sede vacante nihil innovetur”, which translates ‘when the see is vacant there are to be no changes.’ That means no major changes.

The Pope may appoint another Bishop to be our diocesan administrator until we obtain a new Bishop. However, if the Holy Father does not do this by the time Bishop Burns is installed in Dallas, the College of Consultors will elect a diocesan administrator from among our priests. The College of Consultors is comprised of Reverend Peter F. Gorges, Reverend Patrick J. Travers, Reverend Perry Kenaston, Reverend Edmund Penisten, Reverend Scott Settimo, Reverend Steven P. Gallagher, Reverend Michael Galbraith, Reverend Andrew Sensenig, and Reverend Patrick Casey, O.M.I. This has to be done within eight days of the installation of Bishop Burns in Dallas.

When the Bishop takes possession in Dallas on February 9th, and the see of the Diocese of Juneau becomes vacant, the College of Consultors and the Finance Council will continue in office, as will the judicial vicar and chancellor. The diocesan Presbyteral Council and Pastoral Council will lapse until they are reestablished by the new Bishop. The diocesan administrator will have most of the authority of the bishop, but with certain limitations designed to prevent him from impeding the freedom of the new bishop when he takes office. There are some functions, such as ordaining priests or deacons, that only a bishop may perform, and may not be carried out by the diocesan administrator.

The length of time that the Diocese will be without a bishop is unknown. It could be eight months – or longer. The see was vacant for 12 months after Bishop Warfel was reassigned to the Diocese of Great Falls – Billings.

Other than previously noted, the transition between bishops should not affect normal operations in the Diocese. Canon law provides for continued operation during the vacancy, and for the most part, operations will continue as normal under the leadership of the diocesan administrator.

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