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.

What is your opinion of archeologists and scientists looking into the historical accuracy of Jesus, Mohammed, or other holy figures?

Archeologists and everyone involved in their projects have made major contributions to our understanding of the faith. Some of their "finds" have enhanced our knowledge of various factors which must be considered in the study of biblical times. In my opinion, their conclusions can help us to grow in our comprehension of the faith. I believe that this scientific work can be of great assistance to the fields of theology and scripture. There is, however, a danger here. My faith is not based upon a historical search. It is based upon my response to God, as revealed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit in Scripture, celebrated in the liturgy and my experiences of prayer and study. In the Vatican Council document Lumen gentium (no.25) we read that the "heralds of the faith", its authentic teachers, are the Holy Father, the bishops and those who work with them. It is their duty to preserve the purity of the faith which has been handed down by the apostles. Research can help them in carrying out this task, but it can never replace them and become the teacher.

Lets take another example, such as the resurrection of Jesus. This is a cornerstone of our beliefs. No search for his bones will ever be successful. They will never be found! My belief is based on the witnesses of the empty tomb. In scripture, St. Paul writes that his body, at the resurrection, was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and that he now shares in divine life and can today be called "the man of heaven" (cf.1Cor.15: 35-50). There are many similar biblical accounts which have shaped our faith. Archeological findings can certainly help us to understand better the times surrounding these events - but they will never change them!