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.

How has the internet affected your faith group? (i.e. Has it brought them closer together, or divided them into ideological subgroups?

I have not seen any evidence of the internet causing divisions within our faith community. If anything, it seems to have contributed to our growth and improved our communications. We are always surprised when people have come to services because they had visited our web-site, then experienced a connection with the liturgies they attended, enjoyed getting to know the parishioners and then registered their family. The web-site also allows us to publish current news and events, listing special masses along with times of services as well, eliminating the need to telephone. Our web-master tells us that a very large number of individuals consult it daily. For example, during the Christmas and Easter seasons, no matter how much bandwidth we add, we cannot meet the demands.

Another important contribution the internet has made for us is the rapidity with which we can access needed information. Only twenty years ago, this process took days and weeks to complete, and it is now almost immediate. We can consult the web-sites of the Vatican and all its dicasteries, the Bishops Conferences everywhere and virtually all religious organizations - and find the materials we need. On more than one occasion, I have sent an inquiry to a particular department in Rome in the afternoon, only to have a response for one of my parishioners in my inbox the following morning.

However, like all good things, the internet can be abused and become a source of difficulty for some individuals and create divisions in certain families. We must do everything we can to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable persons in its various pornographic ventures, and the addictive and destructive aspects of certain chat rooms, to name but a few. Nonetheless, used properly, the internet has become an indispensable tool for which we must be truly grateful.