The Rev. John F. Burns, 66, pastor emeritus of Ephiphany Catholic Church in Georgetown, died of cancer Monday at Providence Hospital.

He was pastor of Epiphany from 1965 until retiring in 1978 because of poor health. He lived at the Cardinal O'Boyle Residence for Priests in Hyattsville.

Father Burns was born in Baltimore, and studied at St. Charles High School and College and St. Mary's Seminary there. He was ordained at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption in Baltimore in 1936.

He was assigned to St. Paul's Catholic Church in Washington, serving there until 1953, when he became administrator of St. James Parish in Mount Rainier. In 1961 he was named pastor there.

Father Burns had served as chaplain of the Archbishop M. Curley Assembly of the Knights of Columbus and on the Metropolitan Marriage Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Washington.

He is survived by his mother, Sadie V. Bilz, and half-brother, Eugene F. Bilz, of Rockville; a sister, Catherine L. Brown, of Pikeville, Md., and a brother, Harry J. Burns, of Baltimore.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to the building fund of Ascension Catholic Church in Bowie.