Pilgrims of beauty and faith
Today world society is immersed in a generalized, almost frenetic mobility. Tourism is its most obvious and numerically largest manifestation.
A recent phenomenon
Mass tourism is a modern phenomenon. Not even a hundred years ago, most people were born, lived and died without ever leaving a very limited geographical area.
The development of tourism is possible due to factors, like the availability of free time, accessibility of the means of communication, opening of frontiers between the different countries, and the fact that economic and administrative structures have been standardized to a certain extent. Getting paid vacations has played a decisive role in it.
Tourism has developed into one of the major global industries in terms of economic volume, the number of jobs it creates, and the number of persons who engage in it. Its influence on the development of countries is becoming fundamental, even though its benefits do not always fall back on the local community because of erroneous policy.
Beyond everyday life
Man has an innate desire to go beyond his everyday horizons. In an age where the communications media bring the wonders, traditions and cultures of the whole world into our homes, the desire to leave becomes irresistible in order to know other sights and venture into the unknown.
So as to satisfy everyone's dreams, tourism has become extraordinarily diversified, to the point of becoming personalized: the voyages can be multiplied, and the most favorable seasons can be chosen to enjoy the mountains or the seaside, rural settings or cities.
The favorite tourist destinations include cathedrals, monasteries, shrines or ancient paths of pilgrimage that exert a strong attraction on contemporary man. Moreover, one strong element in the voyage is each person's spiritual search. In fact, the pilgrimage exists in all religions.
The excluded & the privileged
Our era's technical advances and quality of life are not within everyone's reach. Deep gaps exclude entire countries and social groups from well-being and from justice too. The division between the rich and the poor seems to be accentuated in an era of globalization.
Many believe that tourism contributes a part to this division. The world tourist industry is directed to industrialized countries, and it often exploits the natural and cultural resources of less affluent countries as well as the work of men and women who are excluded from wealth. Contrary to the sustainable development recommended by experts, tourism often turns into both an upheaval of the balances of creation and even an exploitation of persons.
Tourist planning must be inserted into an ethical framework that respects fundamental human values and is inclined to build a more just humanity with greater solidarity. The World Ethical Code for Tourism (1.10.1999), adopted by the World Tourism Organization (WTO), responds to these needs.
If all the potentialities of tourism were put in the service of peace and the promotion of the whole of society, especially of communities in the developing countries, its contribution to the future of humanity would be truly great.
The Church and tourism
"Not forgetting the strident economic and social contrasts that harass many a part of the world and being anxious about not a few uneasy aspects of modern tourism, the Church recognizes the profound values and the specific elements of improvement that she is able to produce for the betterment of the new order of human relations" (Peregrinans in Terra, 3).
The Church's attention in this regard develops in many ways: through preparation to travel in a Christian way, hospitality for tourists in the communities of the countries visited; attention to professionals and workers in tourism, and accompanying those who visit the Church's cultural heritage.
The task of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People is to coordinate and promote activities in the field of the pastoral care of tourism, shrines and pilgrimages that the Bishops' Conferences carry out in each country. Therefore the Council does its best to assure tourism is "rightly guided and directed, and can thus serve the harmonious development of nations and lead to the discovery of the gifts that the Creator and Father of all has sown so abundantly in the universe and in the hearts of people of every race, language and culture." (John Paul II, 26.11.1992).