MESSAGE OF JOHN PAUL II
1. The observance of the World Day of Tourism that will take place on 27 September with the theme: "Ecotourism, the Key to Sustainable Development",
again gives me the welcome chance to reflect on the phenomenon of human mobility that has developed so rapidly in recent decades and now involves millions of persons. Tourism enables people to use part of their free time to contemplate the goodness and beauty of God in his creation and, through contact with others, helps to intensify mutual dialogue and acquaintance. Thus free time and tourism can compensate for the lack of human contact that is often felt in daily life.
In Genesis, in the renewing vision of the Prophets, in the wise contemplation of Job and of the author of the Book of Wisdom as well as in the faith experiences witnessed in the Psalms, the beauty of creation is a sign that reveals God's greatness and goodness. In his parables, Jesus invites people to contemplate the nature that surrounds them to learn that confidence in the heavenly Father must be total (cf. Lk 12,22-28) and faith must be constant (cf. Lk 17,6).
Creation is entrusted to man so that, by cultivating and safeguarding it (cf. Gn 2,15), he may provide for his needs and obtain his "daily bread", the gift that the heavenly Father himself destines for all his children. We should look at creation with eyes that are clear sighted and full of wonder.
Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that the respect due to creation is lessened, but when human beings become the tyrants rather than the custodians of nature, sooner or later the latter will rebel against human disregard (cf. John Paul II, Homily at Mass for the Jubilee of the Agricultural
World, 12 November 2000, n. 4; ORE, 15 November 2000, p. 1).
Nevertheless, how can we deny that today humanity is experiencing an ecological emergency? A certain kind of savage tourism has contributed to and still contributes to this unwanted destruction by way of tourist installations built without any planning that respects their impact on the environment.
As I noted in my Message for World Day of Peace
1990, "we must go to the source of the problem and face in its entirety that profound moral crisis of which the destruction of the environment is only one troubling aspect" (n. 5; ORE, 18-26 December 1989, p. 1). Indeed, the destruction of the environment highlights the consequences of decisions made by private interests that do not weigh the real conditions of human dignity. One finds prevalent an unbridled desire to accumulate personal wealth that prevents people from hearing the alarming cry of poverty of entire peoples. In other words, the selfish quest for their own good fortune induces people to disregard the legitimate expectations of present and future generations. The truth is that when people cut themselves off from God's plan for creation, they block out concern for their brothers and sisters, and respect for nature.
We should favour forms of tourism that show greater respect for the environment, greater moderation in their use of natural resources and greater solidarity with local cultures. This type of tourism implies a strong ethical motivation based on the norm that the environment is everyone's home and that the good of nature is destined for everyone who enjoys it now and for the generations to come.
No intervention in an area of the ecosystem can neglect weighing the consequences in other areas and in general the effects it will have on the well-being of future generations. Ecotourism takes people to places, environments or regions whose natural balance needs constant care if it is not to be jeopardized. Studies and rigorous controls must be encouraged; they should aim at harmonizing respect for nature with the human person's right to benefit from it for his personal development.
Tourism can be an effective means of forming this consciousness. A less aggressive approach to the natural environment will help people discover and appreciate better the goods entrusted to the responsiblity of all and of each. A close knowledge of the fragility of many aspects of nature will create a greater consciousness of the urgent need for adequate measures of protection, to put an end to the inconsiderate exploitation of natural resources. Attention and respect for nature can foster sentiments of solidarity with men and women, whose human environment is constantly assaulted by exploitation, poverty, hunger, the lack of education and health care. It is up to everyone, but especially those who work in the tourist sector, so to act that these objectives become reality.
May believers draw from their faith an effective incentive that will guide them in their relationship with the environment and in their duty to preserve it in its integrity for the benefit of human beings today and tomorrow. I now especially address Christians to ask them to make tourism another opportunity for the contemplation and encounter with God, Creator and Father of all. May they thus be strengthened in their service to justice and peace, faithful to the One who promised new heavens and a new earth (cf. Apoc 21,1).
I hope that the observance of the coming World Day of Tourism will help people rediscover the values inherent in this human experience of contact with creation and will spur each one to respect the natural habitat and local cultures. I entrust all who are concerned with this specific area of human life to Mary, Mother of Christ, and invoke upon them the Blessing of Almighty God.
From the Vatican, 24 June 2002.
IOANNES PAULUS II
*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.27 p.9.
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