The primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, was scheduled to make his first visit to the Middle East and to the Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem Aug. 22-29. The diocese extends over Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
“The context for the trip…is a resolution from General Synod in 2007 that the primate make a solidarity visit to the diocese of Jerusalem,” said Archbishop Hiltz. At press time, the primate was scheduled to meet with the bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Suheil Dawani, and to tour the diocese’s various projects and churches, including the Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr. The diocese has 27 parishes that minister to various communities; it also runs hospitals, clinics, schools, institutions for the deaf, disabled and elderly, and inter-faith relations.
There was also a plan to visit Gaza “to see what life is like for Christians,” said Archbishop Hiltz. Gaza is still recovering from an Israeli offensive last December and January, which killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, and displaced thousands of others.
The Anglican Church of Canada has a strong partnership with the Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Historically, peace and justice initiatives have been a focus, along with building relationships with ecumenical, Muslim and Jewish groups in the region.
“I’m hoping that the visit will kindle a renewed partnership,” between the two churches, said Archbishop Hiltz. The last primate to visit Jerusalem was Archbishop Michael Peers, who in 1990 was part of a delegation of Canadian church leaders invited by the Middle East Council of Churches. In 1997, he also attended a meeting of primates of the Anglican Communion.
Archbishop Hiltz was also scheduled to meet with Bishop Munib A. Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. The two had met previously at the recent Evangelical Lutheran Church meeting in Vancouver.
In addition, Archbishop Hiltz hoped to visit Nazareth, the birthplace of Jesus, and to join the weekly Way of the Cross in which pilgrims and local residents walk the roads of the Old City of Jerusalem.