Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.

Is your house of worship open to the public at all times?

The doors of Notre Dame Cathedral are open each day from 9:00 a.m. until just after 6:00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and from 8:00 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., following our last Sunday Mass. We are able to do so because of a complex security programme. Many churches wish they could do the same, however they are unable to assure the level of security which is required these days. Some churches must remain locked, but parishioners who wish to enter them in order to pray, usually have to go through the parish office. In this way, there is a control over the access. We must all ensure the security of the building and respect for the Blessed Sacrament. It is equally important for us to assure the safety of those who come to pray during each day.

Of course, a church such as ours, which is a splendid example of Canadian religious art, attracts numerous tourists throughout the year. The beauty of the architecture also contributes to contemplation. Yet, the most remarkable thing we notice is the atmosphere of deep and respectful prayer which fills the church at all times. There are always people praying before the Blessed Sacrament and this is something we encourage. This year, we began exposing the Blessed Sacrament for private adoration in Lent and Advent, for a period of time each day. It is consoling indeed to know that, in the heart of our capital city, people come to meet the Lord in personal and communal prayer.

Pope Benedict underscored the far-reaching effects of such prayer in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum caritatis, "... it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another."