Holy See's Message for World Tourism Day

«Mutual Knowledge Will Help in Building a More Just, Supportive and Fraternal Society»

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a pastoral message from the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers written for World Tourism Day, which will be celebrated on Sep. 27 this year and will focus on the theme «Tourism — Celebrating Diversity.»

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«Tourism – celebrating diversity«, the theme of World Tourism Day 2009 proposed by the relevant World Organization, opens for us ways of meeting with human beings, with their diversity, their anthropological richness.

Diversity is a fact, a reality, but, as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, it is also a positive factor, something good, and not a threat or a danger, up to the point that the Holy Father wants «people not only [to] accept the existence of other cultures but also desire to be enriched by them.»[1].

The experience of diversity belongs to human existence, also because each one’s development advances by diversifying steps that promote the person’s growth and maturity process. It is a progressive discovery, as we compare ourselves with people and everything around us, thus distinguishing ourselves from what is unlike us.

In positively evaluating what is different, we note a contradiction. On one hand we observe that in this time of globalization, cultures and religions approach each other more and more, and that in the heart of all cultures, an authentic desire for peace is emerging. On the other hand, we see misunderstandings, prejudices and deeply rooted misconceptions that raise barriers and nurture divisions. This is the fear that is in us of what is different, unknown.

We must therefore do everything we can to transform discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance into understanding and mutual acceptance, through the roads of respect, education and open, constructive and binding dialogue.

In seeking to do this, the Church has an important role to play, starting with Paul VI’s deep conviction, expressed in the encyclical Ecclesiam suam, that «the Church must enter into dialogue with the world in which it lives. It has something to say, a message to give, a communication to make.«[2] This means a constructive and sincere dialogue which, to be authentic, «must avoid sinking into relativism and syncretism and must be inspired by sincere respect for others and by a generous spirit of reconciliation and fraternity.«[3]

From this perspective, tourism is also an occasion for dialogue and listening, inasmuch as it puts people in contact with other ways of living, other religions, other ways of seeing the world and its history.[4] It is likewise an invitation not to withdraw into one’s own culture, but to be open and face different ways of thinking and living.[5] It should not be surprising, therefore, that extremist sectors and terrorist groups of a fundamentalist nature indicate tourism as a danger and an objective to destroy. Mutual knowledge – let us ardently hope – will help in building a more just, supportive and fraternal society.

People’s initial experience regarding diversity takes place today also in the virtual world, a cosmic megalopolis permanently offered to everyone. Thanks to this first form of «tourism», which is virtual and kinematic, diversity is observed at a close range, facilitating a proximity of the different one who is distant. It is this «tourism» that first celebrates diversity.

However, it is above all tourism understood as a physical mobility, that underlines natural, ecological, social, cultural, patrimonial and religious diversity. It also allows us to discover the work done together, cooperation among peoples, unity among human beings in the magnificent and disturbing diversity of its achievements.

However, in discovering diversity, contradictions and limits appear. If tourism develops in the absence of an ethic of responsibility, there would at the same time be the danger of uniformity and of beauty as «fascinatio nugacitatis» (cfr. Wis 4:12). What happens, for example, is that local residents make of their traditions a show for tourists, offering diversity as a commercial product, only for lucrative purposes.

All this requires an effort, both on the part of the visitors and of the local residents who welcome, to assume an attitude of openness, respect, nearness, trust in such a way that, motivated by their desire to meet others, respecting their personal, cultural and religious diversity, they will be open to dialogue and understanding.[6]

The foundation of diversity lies in the mystery of God. The Word that creates is at the origin of the richness of the species, particularly of him/her who is the «image and likeness» of God. This poetical biblical Word is diversity, source of the identity of every creature, since the Creator was the first to contemplate the beauty-goodness of everything that He made (cf. Gen 1). And God is also that wonderful force which is the principle of unity of all differences, seen as a «manifestation of the Spirit … given for some benefit (1 Cor 12:7). In contemplating diversity, the human person discovers traces of the divine in the footprints of what is human. And for the believer, differences as a whole open ways by which one can draw near the infinite greatness of God. As a phenomenon having the possibility of celebrating diversity, tourism, for us, can be Christian, an open road to contemplative confession.   

God entrusts the Church with the task of forging a new creation in Jesus Christ – thanks to the Spirit – recapitulating in Him (cf. Eph 1:9-10) all the treasures of human diversity that sin has transformed into division and conflict,[7] so that, «in the Spirit of Pentecost«, it may contribute «to the foundation of a new society, in which the different languages and cultures no longer constitute inviolable confines, as after Babel, but in which this very diversity can realize a new manner of communication and communion.»[8]

These are reflections that can encourage the commitment of those who are involved in the specific pastoral care of tourism, especially towards those who suffer in some way due to the phenomenon. This, however, is a sign of our time and brings with it positive aspects. We stressed this once again on the occasion of the recent celebration of the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Directory Peregrinans in terra.

My the divine breath of life win over every xenophobia, discrimination, racism, and bring nearer those who are far away, through a contemplation of the unity/diversity of a human family blessed by God. It is the Spirit that gathers together in unity and peace, in harmony and mutual recognition. In Him, there is order and beauty in the seven days of creation. May He, too, enter the tormented history of humankind, thanks also to tourism.

From the Vatican, 24 June 2009


Antonio Maria Vegliò



Agostino Marchetto

Archbishop Secretary


[1] Benedict XVI, Message on the occasion of the Study Day on the theme «Culture and Religions in Dialogue», organized by the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue and for Culture, 3 December 2008: L’Osservatore Romano, n. 287 (45.027), 9-10 December 2008, p. 1. Along the same line, John Paul II affirmed: «To cut oneself off from the reality of difference – or, worse, to attempt to stamp out that difference – is to cut oneself off from the possibility of exploring the depths of the mystery of human life. The truth about man is the unchangeable standard by which all cultures are judged; but every culture has something to teach us about one or other dimension of that complex truth. Thus the ‘difference’ which some find so threatening can, through respectful dialogue, become the source of a deeper understanding of the mystery of human existence» (Address to the fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations, 5 Octo
ber 1995, n. 10: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XVIII/2 -1995-, Vatican City 1998, p. 738).

[2] Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam suam, 6 August 1964, n. 65: AAS LVI (1964), p. 639.

[3] Benedict XVI, Message on the occasion of the Study Day on the theme «Culture and Religions in Dialogue», l.c.

[4] Cf. Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi (The love of Christ towards migrants), 3 May 2004, n. 30: AAS XCVI (2004), p. 778.

[5] «As children of their own culture, travelers, tourists, take off for the encounter/clash with children of another culture. If they start a dialogue with it, they agree to let themselves be questioned by the elements that can enrich their intellectual, spiritual and cultural patrimony. This may lead them to put up for question some behaviors, a priori considerations and even beliefs that influence their everyday lives» (Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Final Document of the Fourth European  Meeting on the Pastoral Care of Tourism, 29-30 April 2009, no. 34).

[6] Cf. Benedict XVI, Message on the occasion of World Tourism Day, 16 July 2005: Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI, I (2005), Vatican City 2006, p. 339.

[7] Cf. Pontifical  Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi (The love of Christ towards migrants), no. 102, l.c.

[8] Ibid., no. 89.

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