|Promoting values for all involved in the wide
world of sports
The annual celebration of the World Day
of Tourism gives everyone an opportunity to ponder on the different
aspects of the fascinating and complex world of tourism.
Moreover, the various themes chosen in recent years have illustrated
certain benefits that are expected of tourism, both for the development of
the international community as a whole and for the respective country's
development. The term "development" also appears in the theme for the Day,
in addition to "mutual understanding" and "culture'".
Thus, the Messages of His Holiness John Paul II, which have been a
feature of recent World Days, have helped us to grasp tourism's potential
from a Christian perspective. I would make so bold as to say that first
and foremost they have invited us to be realists, that is, to understand
that these words, "understanding", "culture" and "development", are
promises whose fulfilment depends on the commitment of those involved, one
way or another, in the tourist phenomenon.
In this regard, the problems and the darker sides of the tourist trade
are glossed over so as not to demonize the industry or hinder its
development, but to mobilize people to act, to take the proper,
indispensable action to ensure that every human action is worthy of man,
woman and child: yes, also of children.
This year, again in the perspective suggested by the terms I have just
mentioned, our attention is focused on the frequent connection between
"tourism" and "sport", which is primarily a sign of their increasingly
On the one hand, this is a result of the internationalization of sports
events, and on the other, it is an effect of sport being more and more
often included in tourist travel and holidays. The news spread across so
many pages of sports magazines in these days, referring to everything from
the European Football Championship to the Olympic Games in Athens, serves
to confirm this observation.
These events involve hundreds and thousands of people, from the
athletes and competitors themselves to the managers and spectators, to
those who gravitate to them, perhaps in the hope of finding a job; this is
in addition to the millions of viewers across the world who are taking
part or will be taking part "through the media", often with keen
excitement and in the "spirit" of the event.
Tourism and sport strive for one goal
Thus, both tourism and sport are expressions of the mobility of the
people of our time, who feel strongly drawn towards the same goal: the
development of individuals and their well-being, in harmony with the ideal
of bringing about friendly relations between countries and cultures,
overcoming any untoward obstacles and reinforcing reciprocal
understanding. These are the "Olympic" ideals that still mark this festive
encounter, even after so many centuries.
In the context of these ideals, as the Holy Father recalls in his
Message, the Apostle Paul himself expressed his appreciation of the sense
of competition demanded by sport, and did not hesitate to propose it to
Christians as an approach worthy of imitation in the journey of Baptism
and the mission.
Then, we all know that sports, in the Church's pastoral programmes, in
parishes, colleges and recreation centres, have been and still are
considered and encouraged as a school of virtue. We might say that tourism
affords a new opportunity to extend this pastoral approach.
The Holy Father also eloquently reminds us of what must be at every
moment the main motivation for the pastoral action of the Church (hence,
also in tourism and sport). He does so by repeating the words he spoke on
the occasion of the Jubilee of the World of Sport in the context of the
celebration for the Holy Year in 2000, in which he encouraged preferential
attention to the poorest and the weak: the potential resources of tourism
and sport should serve them.
However, and it could not be otherwise, this has been a constant
thought of the Holy Father in his Messages for the World Day of Tourism,
in which he points out the many aspects that still need to be corrected
and oriented to their proper goal.
Following this teaching, the Pontifical Council is trying to promote a
pastoral approach to tourism that is oriented to strengthening ecclesial
communion and building a world at peace and with greater brotherhood and
Sixth World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism
In this sense, we have the opportunity to present the agenda for the
Sixth World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism, held this year in
Bangkok, Thailand, from 5 to 8 July.
The Congress chose the theme: "Tourism at the service of the
encounter between peoples", and the choice of the venue is a clear
sign of the significance we wished to give to its sessions. In other
words, we primarily wanted to promote a reflection that would focus on
understanding tourism from the viewpoint of the "host countries",
especially those that are less developed.
In many of these, tourism meets with an enthusiastic welcome on the
part of the Governments and local finance authorities, which is sometimes
nourished by hopes that do not always tally with the overall situation of
Apart from this circumstance that certainly deserves to be addressed in
other more "political" contexts, the pastoral care of tourism must be
directly concerned with social and ethical conditions and their possible
repercussions in the religious life and cultural identity of persons and
Therefore, the pastoral attention that is expected of the Church in the
countries concerned must necessarily rely on the help and guidance of the
local Churches in the countries of origin.
Tourists must reciprocate efforts made by the countries they visit
Indeed, acceptance must be mutual in this encounter. The effort the
host country makes in receiving visitors must meet with a corresponding
effort on the part of visitors to comply with the customs, culture and
identity of the host country. Only in this way can the encounter that
results from tourism be, in practice, a constructive force for peace and
friendly coexistence between peoples.
On the Bangkok Agenda the Relators introduced their reports with an
overview of the current situation of international tourism, paying special
attention to the development of what has been defined as "social tourism".
On the other hand, the other five reports by internationally renown
speakers addressed the theological aspects on which the pastoral care of
tourism must be based with reference to the specific theme of the
Most of the interventions were "testimonies" that involved more than 15
countries on the five continents and concerned the pastoral care of
There was also a round table on a specific topic: "The scale of 'sex
tourism' and strategies to combat it". People directly engaged in the
fight against this "humiliating aberration", as the Holy Father described
it in his Message for the World Day in 2001 (n. 2), were also present.
To conclude, the Message and the World Congress approve the common
denominator that guides the Pastoral Care of Tourism, constituted by the
ecclesial commitment to evangelization through this "providential
opportunity", as the Instruction Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi
defines human mobility (cf. nn. 9 and 104). And integral human promotion
also means keeping pace with the Gospel.