Tourism Can Have Role in Combating Poverty, Says Pope

In Message for World Tourism Day 2003

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Tourism can become a privileged instrument to combat poverty, John Paul II says in a message for this year’s World Tourism Day.

Commenting on the theme of the World Day — that tourism can contribute to employment and social harmony — the Pope acknowledges that the “drama of poverty is one of the greatest challenges at present.”

“The gap is ever greater between the different areas of the world, despite the availability of necessary means to remedy it, humanity having reached extraordinary scientific and technological development,” he writes. The World Day will be observed Sept. 27.

“It is not possible to remain indifferent and inert to poverty and underdevelopment,” the Holy Father insists. “We cannot close ourselves off in our own selfish interests, abandoning innumerable sisters and brothers in misery, and, even more serious, allowing many of them to die an inexorable death.”

He emphasizes that “tourist activity can play a relevant role in the fight against poverty, from an economic, social and cultural point of view. Travel allows one to get to know places and different situations, and one realizes how great the gap is between rich countries and poor countries. Furthermore, one can evaluate better the resources and local activities, promoting the involvement of the poorest segments of the population.”

“We must make an effort never to allow the well-being of a few privileged to be achieved to the detriment of the quality of life of many others,” the Pope continues.

John Paul II concludes by expressing the desire that “tourist activity become ever more an effective instrument to reduce poverty, to promote the personal and social growth of individuals and peoples, to consolidate participation and cooperation among nations, cultures and religions.”

Archbishops Stephen Fumio Hamao and Agostino Marchetto, and Father Michael Blume, the president, secretary and undersecretary, respectively, of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, presented the papal message on Thursday in the Vatican press office.

Archbishop Hamao indicated that “despite the high figures in tourism — for example, last year there were 715 million international trips for this reason alone — we must always note that a considerable part of humanity encounters grave limitations in … enjoying free time.”

Archbishop Marchetto referred to the duty to “promote the ethics of tourism,” as the Pope indicated in his message for World Tourism Day in 2001.

“This is an indispensable condition if we want tourism to put its energies to the service of the fight against poverty, and to promote the creation of dignified job possibilities and social harmony among individuals and peoples,” the archbishop said. “All these elements are considered very important for the social doctrine of the Church.”

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