Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of the Migrants and Itinerant People
Message from the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People on the occasion of World Tourism Day 2006 (27th September)
“Tourism Enriches.” This is the theme chosen for this year’s celebration of World Tourism Day, which takes place on 27th September. On this occasion, we would like to convey a warm and special greeting to those who work in the tourism sector, as we send our best wishes to tourists and those who welcome them courteously, kindly and, for many of them, also Christianly.
The number of people who experience the large-scale and significant phenomenon of tourism personally, or through others, is on the increase. Indeed, travelling and visiting are verbs that concern many people, who are attracted by the enchantment of what is unknown, although glimpsed in some way, thanks to the mass media, travel agencies or other people’s tales. Admiring and desiring are also characteristic of a significant portion of humankind, called on by so many trips and visits. This means, therefore, a reciprocity in a real experience of space and culture, full of differences and desires that give rise to a host of questions, many of which remain unanswered. This means an active and passive reciprocity, that fuels the imbalance of the planet we have in common, that opens up new opportunities for encounter, encourages development, and even provokes panic and challenges ethical conscience.
But what kind of experience is this? There answers are many, although the context is the same. For many people it means land, air and greenery – in a word, nature –, woods and mountains, water, sea and wind. Others think of planes, trains or cars. For quite a few people it has to do with a financial opportunity, business, a monopoly or a credit card, capital, financial interest or the stock market. For some – and we hope they are many and growing in number – it signifies ties with people, neighbours, family and community, a matter of the heart and feeling, with attentiveness and respect. For a large number it is about expectation and hope, trust and perseverance, spirit and faith and the future. Still for others, it is history that manifests itself, artistic heritage, archives and libraries, painting and sculpture, poetry, literature, cathedrals, churches, temples, mosques, buildings, diplomatic documents, culture, in brief, and … even cuisine. A many-faceted wealth, therefore, facets which are linked up throughout the wide world. A wealth that intersects with hegemonies, in time and space.
Peoples meet and the number of visits multiplies, in an unstoppable flow of tourism. The richness of peoples, who at the same time suffer from underdevelopment, are admired. Feelings of solidarity, often weak in configuration, are stirred up at the end of a trip. Nevertheless – thanks be to God – the impression remains that the economic and financial system is not unique, but rather hegemonic, and is not the best but the present system, a source of great imbalances. What remains is the impression of a humanity that is much richer when the windows of the system are opened up to others, thereby giving access to the cultural, historical, natural, aesthetic, human and spiritual treasures that each people jealously guards to a greater or lesser extent.
Unforgettable in this regard are the words of Pope John Paul II, when he said: “Contact with others leads to discovering their ‘secret’, to being open to them in order to welcome their valid aspects and thus contribute to knowing each one better. This is a lengthy process that aims to shape societies and cultures, making them more and more a reflection of the multi-faceted gifts of God to human beings”.
Tourism enriches precisely insofar as it helps in rendering the so-called “rich” systems “relative” and opens them up to the perception of other forms of “being rich”. Nature, in its primary richness, as manifested in the cosmic cycle, is the welcoming mother who is embraced by our eyes in contemplating the Everest or Kilimanjaro, who is touched by our hands in the blue of the ocean, whom we tenderly welcome in the grey depths of the Black Forest, or whom we admire when, as we fly on the wings of an aircraft, we see what looks like a carpet of cotton wool below us, while the blue of the sky reigns supreme over us.
Cultural heritage highlights the history of everyone, which has left traces of civilisation on bell towers and minarets, on frescoes and pyramids, on bridges and satellites in outer space. This is a limitless wealth that belongs to us all, the common heritage of humanity. It does not only give a voice to human efforts, but also offers each person a memory of the bonds that link us to previous generations and structure history. Tourism therefore reveals a universal richness, which does not reject the human being, but rather preserves his footprints, his trace.
It also sustains the splendid stained-glass window that each one of us is, as an individual and as a member of a community, in our differences and similarities, simultaneously, in our own context and dignity, a wealth that we attest to be immortal: “Whoever believes in me,” – says the Lord – “even if he dies, will live” (John 11:25). Ours is this magnificent window, polychrome and with several components, whose richness combines with solidarity. Its beauty also derives from the acceptance of other faces, so that the stained-glass window becomes an image of the whole of humanity. No one is a copy. We are all unique creations and not the result of cloning. We are the expression of the life of an Other who is the Life: “He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (John 1:7). Everybody bears the seal of mystery and everyone is marked by desire for the Absolute, the trademark indicating that God created us in his own image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:27).
Therefore, the human being is the most precious heritage, with an unexpected aesthetic value, in the light of faith, and also in community, as he is the fruit of the Love of the Eternal Community, in an ecstatic breath (Genesis 2:7) of communion that cannot be equalled, thus appearing as His icon, with a serene or troubled face, with a variety of skin colours, down which the tears of a primitive water often run.
Yet these are often dried in the hope of sharing, in the end, the “inscrutable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). And travelling, coming into contact with other places and cultures, seems like a new dawn, a richness offered on the face of each brother and sister, a permanent and perennial gift from God who becomes a pilgrim and visits each of us through the face of His Blessed Son. “To Him be glory and power for ever and ever” (Apocalypse 1:6).
May this message also be of comfort and encouragement, especially for operators in this important sector of specific action, of human promotion and evangelisation.
In communion with all of you, trust that our prayers are with you for a successful outcome to the World Tourism Day from a pastoral point of view.
Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino
+ Archbishop Agostino Marchetto
Pope John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2005, no. 1
Cf.Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus annus, No. 35.
Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus caritas est, No. 17.