Sport and Tourism

Author: Archbishop Agostino Marchetto

Sport and Tourism

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto
Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

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 accentuated relationship.

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 solidarity.

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 the country.

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 communities.

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 Congress.

Most of the interventions were "testimonies" that involved more than 15 countries on the five continents and concerned the pastoral care of tourism.

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.

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

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