Commentary on 25th World Day of Tourism

Author: Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao

Commentary on 25th World Day of Tourism

Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao
President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Tourism minus ethics equals suffering

It is a cause of great joy for me to present to you once again the Holy Father's Message for the World Day of Tourism which will be celebrated on 27 September, as it is every year.

This day, established by the World Tourism Organization, is also an important reference point for the Pastoral Care of Tourism. Indeed, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which in addition to other issues also deals with tourism, following the Holy Father's directives, promotes the ecclesial celebration of the Day in all countries, for as we know, tourism is a worldwide phenomenon that also has vast repercussions in the pastoral context.

Indeed, in his Messages, Pope John Paul II has reaffirmed this on several occasions. Referring to the themes proposed in the context of the Day, his reflection has touched on important aspects.

His Messages also contain an explicit invitation not to consider the tourist phenomenon as one of many human activities, but as part of the unitary Christian concept of man and society.

Precisely because tourism has many different implications — anthropological, spiritual, social, economic, political and ecological — it must be regulated by the social teaching of the Church, for as the Holy Father says this year, it must be an extension of the "supreme principle that must govern human coexistence... respect for the dignity of each person, created in the image of God and thus a brother or sister to all" (Message for 25th World Day of Tourism, to be held 27 September 2004, n. 1; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 30 June 2004, p. 6).

Tourism without ethics gives rise to suffering

The Church has constantly shown her appreciation for the values of tourism, a force that leads to the development of human coexistence. She does so as part of what the Second Vatican Council expressed in a general way, attesting that: "The Church, moreover, acknowledges the good to be found in the social dynamism of today, particularly progress towards unity, healthy socialization, and civil and economic cooperation" (Gaudium et Spes, n. 42).

Tourism, in fact, is part of this dynamism and realistically speaking, for the most part, is one of its better elements.

It is enough to take another look at the Holy Father's Messages to see listed the possibilities it offers for building peace, for developing solidarity between countries, for intercultural dialogue, in the fight against poverty and in the protection of creation.

There is no question, however, of a unilateral or simplistic vision. The information supplied by the media, and especially the closeness of our Pontifical Council to pastoral agents in the sector, also show us the suffering and difficulties that derive from a tourism devoid of ethics. The Holy Father has explicitly and very clearly referred to this on various occasions.

The Pastoral Care of Tourism, therefore, finds its own special field of action, which is vast and demanding, in the evangelizing mission of the Church: it is a question of proclaiming Christ's salvation and bringing it to this dynamic and remarkable world of tourism.

This task is also immense and multifaceted. An effective example of it is the theme proposed for the World Day this year, as it has been formulated by the World Tourism Organization: "Sport and tourism: two living forces for mutual understanding, culture and the development of societies".

Sport and tourism, for spiritual as well as physical development

In contemporary society, sport and tourism also refer to several elements considered to be the most characteristic and desirable for the well-being of individuals. Both are presented as instruments for a development that is not merely physical but also spiritual and cultural, and as much for the individual as for society.

And in both, as the Holy Father points out, "the occurrence of abuse and corruption is not surprising, despite the nobility of the objectives proclaimed" (Message 2004, n. 2; ORE, 30 June 2004, p. 6).

Of course, the importance that our society attaches to sports and the complex reality that surrounds them require a special pastoral approach. The Pastoral Care of Tourism, whenever it is called into question by the convergence of the two activities, should also make the most of the Pope's criteria and initiatives.

The World Day of Tourism 2004 proposes this to the Church, but also to society in general, which must redouble its efforts and resources to develop ethical conduct in the practice of tourism and sport.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
25 August 2004, page 9

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