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.

Do you think Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is right to ban the Lord's Prayer from the beginning of the legislature each day? Should there be a moment of silence so everyone can say the prayers of their own faith instead?

Surveys consistently show that an overwhelming majority of citizens in Ontario value prayer and see their relationship with God as an all important part of their lives. Many point out that, almost from the beginning, deliberations in the Legislature have begun with the Lords Prayer. Since prayer is an integral part of our lives, it is equally essential that our legislators pray for divine counsel to lead them in their deliberations and guide them in their decision-making. This certainly seems to be the prevailing opinion of the majority of the population.

Last month, Archbishop Thomas C. Collins, who is the President of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly about the Our Father. In his letter, he said that "It is itself a Christian prayer, in its wording it is both closely connected to the Jewish tradition, and open to people of many faiths". He went on to suggest that perhaps prayers of other faiths could also be included in the roster of prayers, in proportion to the percentages of the population they represent. One Church leader that I know, suggests that the Lords Prayer, which is used by a high percentage of our society, could be the default prayer, replaced by prayers from other faiths on significant days in their traditions.

Every institution is inspired by a vision of humanity and its destiny which is God from whom we derive our values and our line of conduct. In his encyclical, Centesimus annus, the late Pope John Paul II reminded political authorities that the Church invited them to measure their judgements and decisions against the inspired truths about God and man. Could there be a better way to ensure this than by beginning each day with the prayer given to us by the Lord himself?