VATICAN CITY, JUNE 19, 2001 ( John Paul II believes that tourism can be a privileged instrument of peace and progress, but also of "humiliating aberrations, such as the exploitation of women and children in an unscrupulous sex trade that is an intolerable scandal."

These severe words are part of the Holy Father´s Message for the 22nd World Tourism Day, which the United Nations will observe Sept. 27. The Vatican published the message today.

The Pope writes: "Every possible measure must be taken to ensure that tourism never becomes a latter-day form of exploitation, but is, instead, a point of fruitful dialogue between different civilizations in which experiences are exchanged in creative ways."

The Bishop of Rome denounces that in some places, "tourism has produced a kind of subculture that degrades both the tourists and the host community."

The Holy Father criticizes the fact that, for "the host communities, tourism often becomes an opportunity to sell so-called exotic products: hence the phenomenon of sophisticated holiday resorts that are cut off from any real contact with the culture of the host country, or that are marked by a superficial exoticism offered to the curious who are eager for new sensations."

"Sadly, this unchecked desire leads at times to humiliating aberrations, such as the exploitation of women and children in an unscrupulous sex trade that is an intolerable scandal," the Pope laments.

"Driven by consumerism, the culture, religious ceremonies and ethnic festivals can become consumer goods, which are increasingly debased in order to meet the demands of a larger number of tourists," the papal message continues.

Given the deplorable situation, John Paul II applauds the World Ethical Code for Tourism.

"It is the fruit of wide-ranging reflection undertaken by various nations and tourism associations, and by the World Tourism Organization," he writes. "This document is an important step toward ensuring that tourism is seen not just as one among many economic activities, but as a privileged means for the development of individuals and peoples."

Lastly, it "should be noted, too, that this World Ethical Code acknowledges the different motives that lead people to travel the length and breadth of the planet, and refers especially to journeys for religious purposes, such as pilgrimages and visits to shrines," the Holy Father notes.

"The mutual learning that comes through meetings and cultural exchange between individuals and peoples certainly helps to build a more fraternal society based upon greater solidarity," he states.

"Tourism," he adds, "enables people to live for a time among others and learn about their living conditions, their problems, and their religion; it allows travelers peacefully to recognize other peoples´ legitimate aspirations and to share them."