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New Mexican bishop hopes to lead services in indigenous languages

Posted on: June 14, 2019 2:23 PM
The Coadjutor Bishop-Elect of Southeastern Mexico, Julio Martin, is currently a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] A Mexican-born priest in the Church of Canada has been elected as the coadjutor bishop of Southeast Mexico, where very few of the congregations speak Spanish. Julio Martin, who has been a clergyman in the Anglican Church of Canada for the past 10 years, says he is looking forward to returning to take up the new role, although it was something he had not looked for.

An archaeologist by background, Julio Martin said one of the biggest challenges he faces in the rural areas of his new diocese are the many congregations which speak a number of different indigenous languages. He said: “some of those languages are as hard as Chinese to learn. . . I’m not saying I’ll learn them, but out of respect, I would like to be able to lead the Eucharist in their own language – that’s the aim.”

Mr Martin said many of the ancient languages, some more than 2,000 years old, were not written down and he would be looking for support from researchers and linguists to help in the task.

Ordained in 1990, he came to faith when he was 20 after having to read the Bible for seminar research. “The message of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ hit me,” he said, “so of course I became a Christian.”

After training for theology in Mexico City, he also studied theology in Canada for two years before returning to work as a priest in some of Mexico’s most remote mountainous parishes. Mr Martin completed further theological research in Boston and wrote a theological book in Spanish called, “Anglican Catholicism.”

In 2001 he was appointed as the Dean of the Cathedral in Mexico City, where he met his wife. The couple moved to Canada with their young son. Mr Martin said that he had fallen in love with Canada on his first visit and that the country was like a second home.

According to Mr Martin, the Diocese of Southeast Mexico has played a leading role in social outreach, helping establish water purification projects, training in baking and setting up bakeries to help make parishes and communities sustainable.

He said: “For my episcopacy one of my prayers is to see that there is a spiritual life, because if you have a spiritual life and you have a deep conviction of being forgiven, then you are thankful and your heart moves you to give happily. Autonomy can be based on material well-being, but it also has to be based on a spiritual well-being.”