Archbishop Fred Hiltz hopes 2014 brings an “unprecedented advance” in tackling issues linked to poverty and that the church becomes known as the church for the poor.
“I pray our faith, skill and passion for addressing these issues will be unleashed, diocese by diocese across the country,” said Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. “I pray our voice can be co-ordinated, articulate and effective in calling for measures that reverse the unacceptable trend of statistics on these matters.”
In delivering his annual New Year’s Day message at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa, the primate said poverty manifests itself in the increasing number of people who depend on food banks. In Ontario alone, 375,000 people turn to food banks every month and more than a third of them are under the age of 18, he said. In Canada the overall child poverty ratio is 13.5 per cent.
“Like you, I am not unfamiliar with these kind of statistics,” he said. “It’s when I come face to face with such a sad reality that I am deeply moved.”
The constant thread running through the primate’s New Year’s Day message was advice given to a community of religious sisters by Padre Pio of Pietrelciana, a Capuchin Catholic priest who died in 1968 and was declared asaint in 2002: “Be close to Jesus.”
“All our mothers and fathers in the Faith have encouraged us to be close to Christ, so that ‘his sweet fragrance might linger wherever we go,’ ” Hiltz said. The padre’s counsel is also reflected in the ministry of Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, he said.
Poverty is one of many issues that call for Christians’ attentions, since through vows in baptism they are “close to Jesus,” Hiltz said. “May we be close to Jesus…close enough to hear the beat of his heart…for us and for the world.”
The presentation of the primate’s annual New Year’s Day message at Christ Church, Ottawa, has become a tradition in recent years. Hiltz has delivered the address at the cathedral, located near Parliament Hill, for the past seven years.
Among those attending the New Year’s Day Holy Eucharist, followed by the diocese of Ottawa’s annual levee, were Bishop Peter Coffin, the Anglican Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Forces, Brigadier-General John Fletcher, the newly appointed Chaplain General of the Canadian Armed Forces, and several chaplains. Also present was the Rev. Canon John Organ, chaplain to Bishop Suheil Dawani of the Diocese of Jerusalem. Christ Church is the cathedral church of the Anglican Ordinariate in Canada.
The primate and his wife, Lynne Samways-Hiltz, joined diocesan Bishop John Chapman, cathedral Dean Shane Parker and their wives, in welcoming guests to the levee.
Art Babych is the editor of Crosstalk, the diocese of Ottawa’s newspaper