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 our moral obligation to friends we just don't like anymore?

The Book of Sirach says "A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, he who finds one finds a treasure.... a faithful friend is beyond all price" (Sir. 6:14,15). The greatest friendship is the one between God and humankind, seen between him and Abraham or him and Moses. Jesus established the friendship of God with all humanity as well. He had many friends such as Lazarus, Martha, Mary Magdalene and others. In him, we learn that the true friend moves beyond the level of mere servant (as in John 15:15) and requires that one share his trials, his dying and rising. Those called to friendship with the Lord also share friendship with each other. Yet there are moments when that friendship is tested, as seen in Pauls relationship with Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39). Throughout the Acts of the Apostles we see how the members of the community draw strength from their friendship.

Todays world, in one sense has become so large, yet in another, has been made smaller by efficient means of communication. I am closer to a friend who lives in Rome than to the person who lives a block away from me. Over time, we often move from one area to another. In the process, we become closer to new people. As we journey, our values change or intensify; we "move on". We do fall away from those to whom we may have been close in the past.

But we cant forget the dignity we all share as human persons. The Vatican II Document Gaudium et spes (15:2) reminds us that we find our perfection "in seeking and loving what is true and good". In that sense, we all share this noble task. Each human person deserves our respect - and encouragement - regardless of the degree or intensity of our friendship with them.