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 group allow visitors to participate fully in your services, i.e. take communion or pray together? If not, why not?

Nowhere do we find the pain of our disunity made more visible than in the celebration of the Eucharist. Of course, we often welcome non-Roman Catholics to our celebrations, but only those in full communion with the Church may receive Holy Communion. Not receiving communion does not exclude others from participating in the rest of the celebration, especially at weddings and funerals, for example.

We pray for the perfect unity that Christ wills for the Church. We come together with members of other faith groups in prayer often. We have both ecumenical and inter-faith prayer services. They are of great importance to all who participate in them. Some of these events are very well known. For example, when the late Pope John Paul II called together representatives of all faiths to pray together at Assisi. And both he and Pope Benedict have visited particular faith groups as well, such as Synagogues and other particular Churches as well. It is through prayer in common that our hearts can be changed. That is everyones hope.

We also come to a better understanding of each other through dialogue at the grassroots level and through the theologians and experts who meet regularly. This will hopefully move towards greater unity in worship The Second Vatican Council document Unitatis redintegratio (no.9) reminds us that our goal of unity can be strengthened through a greater fraternal knowledge of each other. Our faith group, like many others, has offices in Rome which work full time in both ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue. We must never forget that, even though it may take a long time to achieve, unity is not an option! It is important that we pray for everyone involved in this important work of one day realizing Christs prayer that we all be one.