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 see evangelism or spreading the word of God to non-believers as part of its duty? What is your opinion of other faiths trying to convert your members, i.e. Christian missionaries appealing to Jews or Muslims?

We would view it somewhat differently, more in terms of a dialogue between all religions. Despite isolated examples from history, such as Francis of Assisis journey to the Sultan of Egypt in 1219, inter-religious dialogue, really only began to take shape with the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate. In NA 2(Flannery) of that document, we read "The Church, therefore, urges her sons and daughters to enter with prudence and charity into discussions and collaboration with members of other religions". The Church views this dialogue with great importance. In 1964, Pope Paul VI established the Secretariat for Interreligious Dialogue and in 1989 it was raised to the level of a Pontifical Council. Its mandate is to assist the faithful in dialogue, to maintain contact with the leaders and representatives of all other faiths.

This dialogue takes place in four ways: Firstly, it is characterized by mutual concern, respect and hospitality toward each other. Secondly it is a dialogue of deeds, characterized by collaboration in humanitarian, social, economic and certain political areas. Thirdly, the dialogue takes place between specialists which leads to a deeper understanding of each others spiritual values. Finally, it is lived as an experience - especially in common prayer and contemplation.

Among the significant events which have taken place in this regard was the 1986 World Day of Prayer for Peace, to which Pope John Paul II invited all the religious leaders of the world to join him in Assisi. During a visit to Rome in 1990, the Archbishop of Canterbury remembered the event and said "We could pray together for the peace and well-being of humankind, and the stewardship of our precious Earth. At that initiative of prayer for world peace, I felt I was in the presence of God". We are blessed to see that these experiences have continued.