VATICAN CITY, DEC. 6, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here are the conclusions of a meeting on the theme “Tourism, a Transversal Reality: Pastoral Aspects” that was held in November. The Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers convoked the event.
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Meeting of the National Directors of the Pastoral Care of Tourism in Europe
“Tourism, a Transversal Reality: Pastoral Aspects”
(Palazzo San Calisto, Nov. 6-7, 2006)
1. All the participants are aware that proclamation of the Lord Jesus Christ is the center of any pastoral care, including that of tourism, and that all its action has the human person as its object-subject. In continuity with the indications expressed in the recommendations of the World Congress in Bangkok in 2004, this action must be creative and carried out with pastoral inventiveness.
2. Tourism itself, a complex reality and a “sign of the times,” needs a new, if not the first evangelization of those who take part in it in various ways, also because of the new forms in which tourism appears today: scholastic, linked with congresses, health, social, “missionary,” sport touristic, for major events (World Days of Youth, sports events and musical ones …).
3. In the Bishops’ Conferences represented at the meeting, there is a desire to deepen the human reality of the tourism phenomenon, which affects so many aspects of pastoral life because it is transversal and involves many areas of society and the Church herself. However, it must be kept in mind that differences exist in the approach to the pastoral care of tourism between Churches in Eastern and Western Europe.
4. It was noted that, unfortunately, a reductive perception of tourism still exists associated solely with business and well-being, and this hinders adequate acceptance and the necessary development of pastoral activity in the sector.
5. It seems useful to create a national structure, where it does not already exist, which is capable of coordinating what many dioceses are already doing so as to rationalize the Church’s action and make it effective and significant.
6. In secularized, and increasingly intercultural, multireligious European society, tourism can become a useful instrument for spreading Gospel values (and knowledge about the characteristic symbols of the continent’s Christian roots): that is, it can help build a more human and peaceful society. Even a well-guided visit to works of art and historical places of remembrance can be a natural catechesis.
7. The need for a formation project, also with an ecumenical perspective and attention to the religious dimension, is becoming a priority. It should be capable of interacting in a kind of alliance with the different subjects interested in the world of tourism (ecclesial, professional, institutional, educational, university, entrepreneurial …), thereby offering our experience to everyone.
8. This transversal action can become a frontier laboratory for evangelization, but also a testimony to openness, acceptance, communion and dialogue both within the ecclesial community and in the Church-world relation, in light of the texts of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (“Gaudium et Spes”).
9. In fact, the Church’s action in the world of tourism, in respect for transversality, has several correlations (for example, among different ecclesial subjects, in ecumenical dialogue, in the encounter with other religions) and is summed up and expressed then in “hospitality.” This action is not a simple offering of data or information, but a style of collaboration, encounter and understanding that can tear down walls and fences and build bridges of solidarity and peace.
10. The transversality of tourism highlights the need to find a connection that will make it possible to give it an anthropological and moral value, as well as a universal dimension, taking to heart the ecclesial magisterium.
11. Christian tour operators and entrepreneurs, keeping transversality in mind, have a great task in preventing tourism from becoming “out of proportion,” producing negativity for the weaker subjects, and jeopardizing prospects for growth.
12. Pilgrimages deserve special mention and attention, especially the destinations that have given a face to Europe: the Way of Santiago, the “Via Francigena,” the network of shrines, and the art and faith itineraries in a continent that is so rich in testimonies of its Christian roots.
13. The workers involved in the tourism sector, who are absorbed by their work throughout the tourist season, deserve particular pastoral attention with original forms that allow them to see the Church’s concern for them.
14. From the viewpoint of a pastoral strategy network, or better, an integrated strategy, the pastoral care of tourism finds its subjects of reference and synthesis in the ecclesial communities, especially the parishes, because of their capillary presence on the territory.
15. Agreements should be promoted with civil bodies on various levels (international organizations, the European Union, governments, regions, municipalities), in the name of man’s centrality, and bearing in mind that tourism has a transversal influence on culture, economy, ecology, people’s lifestyles and quality of life, etc.
16. It will be worthwhile to provide incentives, together with other ecclesial subjects, in a transversal way and in a spirit of communion (missionary centers, centers for the pastoral care of youth, the family, the elderly, retired people, volunteers), for original forms of tourism with a “new face”: free tourism, low-cost travel, visit to missionary territories, vacations in the service of poor countries, ecological tourism, paths of silence, hospitality in monasteries or in prayer centers.
17. The reality of the pastoral care of tourism will have to be adapted to the evolution of society and technology, with the creation, for instance, of an interdisciplinary observatory for quality tourism (attentive to all the social categories), made up by theologians, sociologists, jurists, economists, pastoral agents, experts and technicians, in communion with the pastors of the Church.
18. It will be worthwhile to create synergies with the institutions, at all levels, so that pastoral ministry will be in favor of all the people who live from tourism or are affected by it.
19. In view of the European reality, which is increasingly marked by people’s mobility, the mission of priests and other pastoral agents must be ever more qualified in order to adapt to an unstoppable characteristic that is transforming the parish communities from stable to “privileged places of transit and encounter limited in time.”
20. The possibility should be studied of formational courses for ecclesial subjects within the pastoral plans of the local Churches and the programs in seminaries, in an interdisciplinary and thus transversal key, while examining with the Catholic and state universities, theological faculties, formation institutes and research centers, the possibility of offering courses, masters and study seminars on tourism and its pastoral care.
21. The study of languages in initial formation thus becomes essential, perhaps with internships abroad, in order to ensure the “plurifunctionality” of future priests in an increasingly intercultural area.
22. To restless modern man, who is frightened by natural catastrophes (global warming, tsunami …), it is urgent for the Church to make her theology of creation known as a solid basis for the respect and protection, in addition to the enhancement and appreciation of the beauty and order of creation.
23. It will be important to achieve greater synergies with the professional associations (hotel owners, leaders, guides, tour operators, workers in the sector, including seasonal workers …) for common agreements in view of promoting quality tourism.
24. In the pastoral care of tourism, both in welcoming visitors and in preparing the faithful for their voyages, the injustices will also have to be pointed out with regard to those who are exploited and whose rights are violated, as in the case of unprotected workers, women and especially minors.
25. The formation of guides or escorts should also consider the possibility of presenting Christianity to the tourists who are not believers in Christ.
26. The art of traveling should be put more in focus and attention should be given not only to its fun and recreational dimension, but also to the learning dimension of research, discovery and cultural curiosity in which tourists can experience a kind of spirituality of free time.
27. Tourism is a possibility that is offered to rethink the reality of time and encourage Christians on vacation to reconcile the time for rest with the riches of religious celebration, without limiting this to Sunday Mass.
28. Regarding the problems raised by marriages celebrated in tourist locations, it is up to the local bishops to respond to this, “collatis consiliis” with the bishops of the tourists’ territory of origin.
29. It is hoped that a Web site will be created on the European level with a pastoral focus to which everyone can refer and also contribute. The key words “pastoral care and tourism” are important for easy access to it. It is suggested to begin this on the national level.
30. With regard to the pastoral care of tourism in the city of Rome, the fulcrum of Christianity, also in collaboration with the competent authorities of the Holy See some feel it is necessary for the pilgrims that take part in the papal audiences to have organized places and aid for Eucharistic celebrations with an “international” character.
Moreover, in order to enable all the pilgrims to understand the Holy Father’s words immediately in their own languages, the hope is expressed that various aids will be used (large screens with the text in several languages, transistor radios …).
31. Concerning the difficulty of some local Churches because of the great influx of tourists in high season and a lack of priests, it is hoped that the bishops’ conferences of Europe with more personnel and means will show their solidarity by not allowing the services of priests to be lacking during the vacation period. In this way they could combine a useful pastoral service with a needed rest.
32. It is hoped, as far as possible, that the pontifical council will take part in events connected with the pastoral care of tourism promoted by the bishops’ conferences in the different countries.
Vatican City, 21st November 2006