Archbishop Fred Hiltz has urged Anglicans to become part of a fellowship that supports the episcopal diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East, describing it as a “very courageous and compassionate” witness under difficult circumstances in the region.
Speaking at the Council of General Synod (CoGS) meeting Nov. 15 to 18, the primate said the Canadian Companions of the Diocese of Jerusalem program has not grown “as quickly as I had hoped.”
Launched a year ago, the program provides leadership and support to the Canadian church’s partnership in mission and justice with the diocese, which extends to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. The diocese has 27 parishes and supports 33 institutions that run hospitals, schools and clinics.
“I really want to see this fellowship grow and flourish across the church,” said Hiltz. Individual membership to the program costs $50 per year; an annual parish membership costs $250; and a diocesan membership costs $500 annually.
Canadian Companions will identify projects in the diocese where specific financial support may be given or promoted, and provide resources to those travelling to the Holy Land, among others.
Hiltz reminded CoGS that at the last General Synod in 2010, a resolution to deepen ties with the Jerusalem-based diocese was passed. The bishop of the diocese of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, and his wife, Shafeeqa, were guests at that Halifax meeting.
The Canadian church has made a “significant investment” to its relationship with the diocese, pointed out Hiltz. Major the Rev. John Organ, a retired Canadian military chaplain, is serving as chaplain to Dawani, and is a “very tangible, flesh and blood reality in terms of the diocese’s relationship with the Canadian church,” said Hiltz, adding that Dawani is “delighted to have him.”
The diocese of Ottawa has also fostered a companion relationship with the diocese of Jerusalem, noted Hiltz.
In his report to CoGS, the primate also:
· related his experience at the diocese of the Arctic, which commemorated the new St. Jude’s Cathedral and elected new bishops last spring. “There were tears of joy” as parishioners entered the cathedral for the first time, he said. For him, however, the “best moment” was celebrating the completion of the Bible in Inuktitut after 33 years. When parishioners were given copies “they were literally dancing in the aisle and saying, ‘God speaks my language,'” he said. “It was a beautiful, beautiful moment.”
· Showed photographs of his visit to Japan last October, where he attended the 100th anniversary of the diocese of Chubu and visited areas where he said Canadian missionaries have left a positive imprint on communities.
· Spoke about his ongoing commitment to attending the national events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Every event has “a particular kind of life, spirit and character of its own,” he said.