The Holy Father has written a message for the seventh world congress on the pastoral care of tourism, which begins today in the Mexican city of Cancun. The message is addressed to Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, and to Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo Cardenas L.C., prelate of Cancun-Chetumanl.
“Tourism”, the Pope writes in the English-language version of his message, “like other human realities, is called to be enlightened and transformed by the Word of God. … Tourism, together with vacations and free time, is a privileged occasion for physical and spiritual renewal; it facilitates the coming together of people from different cultural backgrounds and offers the opportunity of drawing close to nature and hence opening the way to listening and contemplation, tolerance and peace, dialogue and harmony in the midst of diversity.
“Travelling reflects our being as ‘homo viator’; at the same time it evokes that other deeper and more meaningful journey that we are called to follow and which leads to our encounter with God. Travelling, which offers us the possibility of admiring the beauty of peoples, cultures and nature, can lead to God and be the occasion of an experience of faith, “for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator”.
“On the other hand tourism, like every human reality, is not exempt from dangers or negative dimensions. We refer to evils that must be dealt with urgently since they trample upon the rights of millions of men and women, especially among the poor, minors and handicapped. Sexual tourism is one of the most abject of these deviations that devastate morally, psychologically and physically the life of so many persons and families, and sometimes whole communities. The trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation or organ harvesting as well as the exploitation of minors, abandoned into the hands of individuals without scruples and undergoing abuse and torture, sadly happen often in the context of tourism. This should bring all who are engaged for pastoral reasons or who work in the field of tourism, and the whole international community, to increase their vigilance and to foresee and oppose such aberrations”.
“I would like to highlight three areas which should receive full attention from the pastoral care of tourism. Firstly, we need shed light on this reality using the social teaching of the Church and promote a culture of ethical and responsible tourism, in such a way that it will respect the dignity of persons and of peoples, be open to all, be just, sustainable and ecological. The enjoyment of free time and regular vacations are an opportunity as well as a right. The Church, within its own sphere of competence, is committed to continue offering its cooperation, so that this right will become a reality for all people, especially for less fortunate communities.
“Secondly, our pastoral action should never lose sight of the ‘via pulchritudinis’, “the way of beauty”. Many of the manifestations of the historical and cultural religious patrimony are “authentic ways to God, Supreme Beauty. … It is important to welcome tourists and offer them well-organized visits, with due respect for sacred places and the liturgical action, for which many of these works came into being and which continues to be their main purpose.
“Thirdly, pastoral activity in the area of tourism should care for Christians as they enjoy their vacations and free time in such a way that these will contribute to their human and spiritual growth. Truly this is “an appropriate moment to let the body relax … in order to grow in personal relationship with Christ””.
“The new evangelization, to which all are called, requires us to keep in mind and to make good use of the many occasions that tourism offers us to put forward Christ as the supreme response to modern man’s fundamental questions”.