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August 27, 2009

Pastor remembered for his compassion

(Continued)

Both Cashman and Jacobi agree that Burns was particularly bright. He held a doctorate in canon law, for example.

"He was a very knowledgeable person," Cashman said. "I was fortunate enough to be in a book club with him. I never left without learning something from Father Burns."

Cashman also praises Burns' patriotism, the attention he paid to veterans and the fact that he threw open the doors of the church after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

When Burns left Marblehead for Swampscott in 2005, Cashman and others followed.

Marblehead police Sgt. Marion Keating notes Burns's progressive attitudes, influencing and liberalizing the church's views on annulments, for example, allowing some divorced Catholics to return to the church in good standing.

"He was the nicest, nicest guy," Keating said. On the job, when police discovered a family or individual in trouble, they knew they could rely on Burns. "We could call him up in the middle of the night. He never said, 'I'm not on duty.' He was always willing to help. He never said no to anyone."

Brings remembers the diminutive priest's cigar. "Boy, he loved that cigar. And it was almost as tall as he was."

Burns will lie in state from 4 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at St. John the Evangelist Church, 174 Humphrey St., Swampscott. The funeral is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, also at St. John's, with burial at Waterside Cemetery in Marblehead.

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