Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 96 (Suppl.), December 2004
GREETINGS AND WELCOME
Cardinal Stephen Fumio HAMAO
President of the Pontifical Council
for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
Reverend Fathers and Sisters,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me particular satisfaction to welcome you here in this city of Bangkok at the beginning of the Sixth World Congress of the Pastoral Care of Tourism. I thank you sincerely for the effort many of you have surely made in order to come to this beautiful city in Southeast Asia.
My fraternal greetings and the gratitude of the Pontifical Council go first of all to you, Your Eminence, Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbundhu, the Archbishop of Bangkok and President of the Bishops’ Conference. From the very first moment, Your Eminence accepted the plan to hold this Congress here with enthusiasm and generous collaboration. I also extend my greetings and thanks to His Excellency the Most Rev. Lawrence Tienchai Semanchit, the Bishop Promoter of the Pastoral Care of Tourism in Thailand, and to the members of the “Catholic Commission for Tourism”, who have worked with such great dedication “in situ” so that this meeting could take place. Our gratitude is also expressed to the Director and the personnel of this magnificent “Pastoral Training Center”. With its exceptional facilities it will surely enhance the effectiveness of our work and the fraternal spirit of our meeting.
My cordial greetings also go to the Most Rev. Salvatore Pennacchio, the Apostolic Nuncio of His Holiness in Thailand, whose precise and valuable assistance we have always been able to count on.
I would also like to greet the illustrious representatives of the governmental authorities of Thailand who honor us with their presence at this event. In this way they manifest the warm welcome that this country always gives to visitors who are attracted by the beauty of these lands and the cordiality of its people.
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you here today, beloved Bishop Promoters of the Pastoral Care of Tourism, National Directors, priests, men and women religious, and laypersons involved in the evangelization of this important phenomenon in contemporary society. As you know, from the very first moment, our plan to hold this Congress here in Bangkok had one clear intention: namely, to make known the Church special concern for the countries that receive tourism, especially the developing countries.
Indeed, tourism’s contribution to the social and economic development of countries is unquestionable. The fact that tourism can and is contributing to greater understanding among peoples is, I dare say, obvious. However, the difficulties raised along the way and the errors committed are also evident. For this reason, tourism, as a part of all human reality, needs the Church’s constant evangelizing action and God’s healing grace.
The theme of our Congress, “Tourism at the Service of the Encounter Among Peoples”, points out to us the central point of the proclamation of the Good News. “Encounter”, in fact, is at the heart of the Gospel proclamation, the Good News that has always resounded in the heart of history as an invitation, as newness open to a communion with God which he wants to bring about among all men, and which the Church celebrates and proclaims daily. The Holy Father John Paul II reminds us about this in his Encyclical Dives in Misericordia (No. 13): “The same Eucharistic rite, celebrated in memory of Him who in His messianic mission revealed the Father to us by means of His words and His cross, attests to the inexhaustible love by virtue of which He desires always to be united with us and present in our midst, coming to meet every human heart”.
For reasons of tourism, hundreds of millions of men and women travel over the roads of our planet every day. They bring along their desires for peace and happiness, they want to admire the beauty of nature and the wealth of artistic testimonials of the past, and they hope to share the life of other societies and cultures. The Pastoral Care of Tourism works so that at the crossroads the Good News will resound as well as the invitation to the encounter with Beauty that never fades and Life that does not perish, in the Communion with one’s brethren that lasts forever (Cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13).
During these days the interventions of the different speakers will help us to deepen this view, just as the work in groups will provide us with an occasion to share our experiences and open up new prospects for pastoral action. I thank all those who have accepted our invitation and will generously offer us their reflections. As of now, I express my gratitude to all because I am certain that the work we will accomplish together will make a significant contribution to the development of the Pastoral Care of Tourism in the whole Church.
I ask for God’s blessing on our work, which we entrust to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, under whose protection we take refuge.