An undated photo of Archbishop-emeritus James Hayes. Hayes was one of the last remaining Canadian participants at Vatican II. Photo/Courtesy of Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth

Archbishop Hayes was a Council Father at Vatican II

  • August 3, 2016

OTTAWA – Archbishop-emeritus James Hayes, one of the last remaining Canadian participants from the Second Vatican Council, died in Halifax Aug. 2. He was 92.

Archbishop Hayes attended the first session of Vatican II as secretary to Halifax Archbishop Gerald Berry, and as a Council Father as an auxiliary bishop for the second session in 1965. He was named Archbishop of Halifax after Berry’s death in 1967, and remained in his post until 1990.

"In the 10 years I've known him here in Halifax, I've always found him to be a welcoming, gentle and kind man who has always been supportive of bringing the Church forward to a credible expression of the Gospel," Halifax-Yarmouth Archbishop Anthony Mancini said in a statement.

Through his commitment to Christian unity, Archbishop Hayes was one of the founders of the Atlantic School of Theology that offers theological training in an ecumenical Christian environment.

“He did something pretty radical at the time, and took a bold step for Christian unity,” said Fr. James Mallon, a priest in the Halifax archdiocese. “You can debate the model, but he took a principle of Vatican II and moved on it.”

The archbishop also “took a move on priestly formation,” with underlying principles of a more “incarnated experience,” as opposed to a more monastic, academic priestly formation, Mallon said.

“He was definitely a pioneer in that respect,” he said.

After Archbishop Hayes’ retirement as archbishop, he worked full-time until 2012 as a palliative care chaplain at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

“He basically spent his entire time visiting the sick, the dying and doing funerals,” said Mallon. “He was seen around the hospitals at all hours of the night. He never stopped.”

Mallon said that when Archbishop Hayes was brought to the hospital the week before he died, he asked for his hospital ID. When asked what he would need it for, the archbishop reportedly said, “You never know when someone might need a priest.”

Mallon recalls meeting with the archbishop when he was 19. He asked to see Archbishop Hayes over a “troubling theological question.”

“It was quite preposterous, this young guy went to see the bishop about my participation in an event not 100 per cent on board with the Catholic faith,” said Mallon. “He assured me I was not compromising anything by being involved in the way I was involved.

“Here he was Archbishop of Halifax and he made time for this 19-year-old.”

A couple of years later, when Mallon had begun studies for the priesthood as an independent student in Mission, B.C., Archbishop Hayes was supportive, even though he had no formal ties to the diocese.

One Christmas, however, when he was home visiting with his family, the archbishop called him and asked him if he would drive him to the valley. When they returned from the trip, Archbishop Hayes asked to come in to meet his family.

“My mother’s ironing, and here’s the archbishop walking in,” said Mallon. “He had a great presence with the people and he remembered everyone’s name.”

Mallon notes Archbishop Hayes was ordained a priest in 1947 when he was 23 years old, the same day Mallon’s mother was born. “He was a great scholar,” he said. “He had a tremendous memory, mostly on liturgical details.”

During his episcopacy, he served as president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1987-89. He also hosted the 1984 visit of St. John Paul II to Nova Scotia.

Archbishop Hayes’ funeral will take place Aug. 5 at 11 am at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Halifax.

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