The Holy See
back up

 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 104, August 2007


Message FROM the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People on the occasion of World Tourism Day 2007

(27th September) 


Tourism Opens Doors for Women

This year, World Tourism Day is dedicated to women, to whom tourism offers ample opportunities to enter the working world, which is so difficult and competitive today. Statistics indicate that the presence of women in this sector is greater than 50%, while almost half of the customers and two-thirds of the students are women.  Tourism, therefore, represents an “open door” for women. It is in harmony with their psychological, organizational and communicative characteristics.  Women’s sensitivity and flexibility find countless occasions to manifest themselves and emerge, starting from the humblest level of work to high-level responsibilities. Women’s gifts of creativity, their inclination towards hospitality, and their ability to be in tune with the thoughts of others help them to have insight into the tastes and aspirations of tourists. For Christians, Saint Martha, the patron saint of hoteliers, who hosted Jesus in Bethany, is an example that is still up-to-date. She shows us the spirit of this service when “concern, attention, and helpful promptness to the wishes of others are given with a spirit of Christian sincerity, then they not only go to a ‘customer’ but also to a brother, indeed, they go to Christ himself”.[1]

For women, tourism represents above all new possibilities for social promotion and access to the common good, and perhaps a new way to live their maternal nature and commitment in the world.  When many new career paths open up to the world of women, the sphere of responsibilities also broadens, the premise for a different future. This prospect can have great consequences that refer women to new commitments and decisions before choices to be made in the family and in society, and for Christian women, in the Church as well.  This specific female presence can even influence the future of countries and the ecclesial community.

Tourism is surely an opportunity, an “open door” for women in society and the Church, but it is not without difficulties and challenges.  The first and greatest difficulty is felt in the family context where the time available must be divided between their role of primary educators, their status in the home and work.  In this regard, we are witnessing a real social transformation. As to the professional aspect, despite the fact that 30% of managers are women, it is noted that women’s qualification is still modest with repercussions on salaries that tend to be lower for them. The goal proposed of equal pay for equal work is still far away.

Unfortunately, some situations of absolute injustice exist for women: that is, when they are obliged to accept forms of work that are “real slavery”, as in the case of what is called sex tourism. In this regard, John Paul II spoke out in 1995[2] against “the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality”, and recently Pope Benedict XVI also strongly condemned this in the Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2006.[3] This Council has taken up the theme again in the Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road, where it is stated that prostitution and sexual exploitation “constitute an offense to human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental rights”.[4] The work done in this context by Religious Congregations to support these women and young girls and bring them back to a dignified life is praiseworthy.

“In some cultures…women are still firmly subordinated to the arbitrary decisions of men, with grave consequences for their personal dignity and for the exercise of their fundamental freedoms”.[5]  In order to achieve a real equality of rights, with the resulting equal terms in work, salary and religious freedom, much remains to be done.  Nevertheless, also through their efforts in the area of tourism, women must strive to overcome inequality and share equal responsibilities with men, as seen in the creative design defined by Genesis (Gn 1:28).  Pope Benedict XVI stated “I believe that women themselves, with their energy and strength, with their predominance, so to speak, with what I would call their ‘spiritual power’, will know how to make their own space.  And we will have to try and listen to God so as not to oppose him but, on the contrary, to rejoice when the female element achieves the fully effective place in the Church best suited to it, starting with the Mother of God and with Mary Magdalene”.[6]

From this perspective, women also have a role of great responsibility to play in the pastoral care of tourism.  Women’s “diakonia” is well suited to the many circumstances in the world of tourism where one moves and interacts, and has as its basis a Christian view of tourism, which is a service to people and the community.  In fact, through their particular gifts of receptivity and altruism, and their ability to appreciate everything that expresses beauty and goodness in the creation, women can try to reduce the distances between human beings of different cultures and religions, and in this way open up spaces for dialogue.  Appropriate formation can lead women to “a manifestation of the hope that sustains everyone and renews”.[7]  Being interested in and available for the needs of travelers, including those who are less favored, women can favor their participation in the liturgical celebrations, especially to help the local communities in countries with a Christian minority that have a great need for support.  In this way women have the possibility to help develop a new humanism by putting the “female genius” at the service of humanity and also revealing the maternal face of the Church.

Holy Mary of the Way, an itinerant Woman, be an example for today’s women involved in tourism (mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, workers) so that ethical and Christian convictions will always be present for them on the road to be traveled, and so that they will not lose sight of the final goal by following transitory, ephemeral interests.  May the door opened by tourism become a “holy door” for women, through the Grace of God. 


Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino




X Archbishop Agostino Marchetto



[1] Paul VI, Address to the representatives of hotel tourism, March 7, 1964: AAS LVI, 1964, p. 13.

[2] John Paul II, Letter to Women, 29 June 1995, No. 5: L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, N. 28 (1399), 12 June 1995, pp.1-3.

[3] Cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2006, on the theme Migration: A Sign of the Times: People on the Move XXXVII (2005), No. 99, p. 58.

[4] Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road, 24 May  2007, No. 88.

[5] Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Peace 2007, No.7: L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, N. 51/52 (1974), 24-27 December 2006, p. 6/7.

[6] Benedict XVI, Interview in preparation for the apostolic voyage to Munich, Altötting and Regensburg (September 9-14, 2006), Castel Gandolfo, 5 August 2006: L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, N. 35 (1958), 30 August 2006, p. 8.

[7] Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Tourism, 29 June 2001, No. 22: Special insert L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, N. 15 (1738) - 10 April 2002, pp. I-VIII.