VATICAN CITY, FEB. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Vatican officials are urging tourists to use ethics and intelligence and engage in pastimes that respect man and creation, as the planet faces the challenge of climate change.
In a letter sent to participants in a congress on international tourism, Cardinal Renato Martino and Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers, said that everyone is responsible for climate change.
The congress was held Friday in Milan on the theme “Tourism Faces the Challenge of Climate Change.”
“We are all responsible, in different ways, for the present situation” of climate change, stated the letter. This “can also be referred in a singular way to the sphere of tourism, an activity of man that contributes to climate change and suffers its effects.”
The Vatican officials pointed to the negative influence of tourism in such areas as “noxious gases from the means of transport,” and the “squandering of natural resources.”
At the same time, they wrote, tourists also suffer the consequences of climate change.
And, beyond the issue of the planet, tourists have a key role to play in the economic dynamism of the world, the prelates noted.
The industry favors the creation of jobs, the development of infrastructure, the promotion of culture, and the safeguarding of natural areas, thus representing an important opportunity to combat poverty, they said.
Thus, the Vatican officials called for a healthy balance between the favoring of economic growth and the “parameters of ecological respect.”
“The results of the tourist policies and plans will be beneficial only if they are coupled with a social and environmental vision, in addition to the economic,” the letter contended.
The Vatican officials cautioned against possible economic benefits waning with the present environmental crisis, “and it is precisely the poorest countries that suffer the greatest consequences, though they themselves are not the ones most responsible for the noxious emissions.”
Cardinal Martino and Archbishop Marchetto also pointed to the spiritual benefits of tourism. They said in can be an occasion “to know the riches of Creation, which show us the infinite goodness and mercy of its Author, and open the door to us to discover Beauty, which is God.”
Today, however, “nature, modified by man’s action, does not always reflect the face of the Creator.”
The letter added: “Too often the destructive human hand opposes the finger of the Creator” and “the garden has become a desert.”
For this reason, they reaffirmed the need to “defend ourselves and reverse the course,” because “only in this way will the desert bloom again and we will be able to read in it the creative Word of its Author,” and “tourism will again be a companion on the path of our search for the Absolute.”
To have a correct relationship with nature, it is not enough to change attitudes, the prelates warned. What is necessary is “a correct conception of the environment,” beginning by considering Creation as “a gift of God for all, as the common patrimony of humanity.”
Progress, in tourism as in other sectors, must therefore “recognize its own limits,” because “it is at the service of Creation and not the other way round.”
In this context, the Vatican dicastery offered several proposals, among them “to cultivate the ethics of responsibility; to return to the sense of limits, recognizing the otherness between equals and the transcendence of the Creator in regard to his creatures; to assume personal and proper protection of the planet, to animate a ‘green’ culture” and “to develop also responsible tourism in face of climate change.”
They concluded: “We propose the recovery of the spiritual dimension of the relationship with Creation, not reducing it to a mere object of exploitation,” and succeeding at building an “‘intelligent tourism,’ that is, ethical [tourism].”
“We must be determined,” the officials concluded, “to recover the original Paradise, [once] again finding friendship with God, with nature, with brothers, and with ourselves.”