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.

Does your faith consider obesity a moral problem? Is it imperative to eat moderately and exercise?

n the Book of Genesis, we read that God created us in his own image, giving us a unique place in creation. Our nature unites both the spiritual and material worlds. We possess the dignity of a human person who is not just something, but someone. We are capable of self-knowledge, self-possession and of entering into communion, not only with others, but with God himself. Our faith calls us, by grace, to respond to God in love for having created us.

An important way for us to love and serve him is by valuing his gift of life to us. We are responsible to God for our lives. We must accept that gift with gratitude and do everything to preserve it. In this sense, we are the stewards, not the owners, of the bodies which have been entrusted to us by God who is the Sovereign Master of life.

Physical health is also a precious gift from God. We must take reasonable care of our bodies. Having healthy bodies is not limited to the question of obesity. We must avoid every kind of excess in addition to the abuse of food: alcohol, tobacco or medicine. Preserving our lives does involve exercise. It also includes avoiding endangering ours and others lives by the excessive use of speed on the road, in the air or on the water. The use, promotion and sale of illegal drugs also inflicts grave damage on the health of humans. Not only physical matters must be taken into account here, but all the mental and spiritual challenges that also arise in life. None of us is exempt from these struggles. Here we all count on Gods help in overcoming them, taking comfort in knowing that total perfection will only be achieved in the next life.