Offer Virtual Tours Too, a Vatican Aide Advises Shrines

Conference on Pilgrimages Under Way in Spain

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 5, 2002 ( As the 3rd European Congress on Shrines and Pilgrimages continues at the Catalan Shrine of Monserrat, a Vatican official urged shrines to make virtual tours available over Internet.

“There are many shrines on the Net and many people ´visit´ shrines through this modern means of communication,” Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, said over Vatican Radio.

“For some, this virtual visit is the only way in which they can come into contact with the place,” he added. “Others, on the contrary, first make a virtual visit and then a personal one.”

The congress in Spain is reflecting on the extraordinary number of people who visit shrines, apart from organized pilgrimages. Christian pilgrimage centers attract about 150 million people every year, according to Holy See data reported by Vatican Radio.

In many cases, the visitors are tourists, or people who visit shrines for cultural purposes or seek a place of peace and rest. Some visitors are not even believers. Participants at the congress are studying the ways in which these types of visitors could be received.

Archbishop Marchetto said that for the above visitors, “the way in which they are welcomed at a shrine becomes the image they receive of the Church.”

“Therefore, it is important to offer hospitality to all — different cultures and ways of being,” the archbishop added. “In fact, this is the vocation of the Church, which must be increasingly a place for listening and giving answers.”

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