Vatican Urges Earth-Friendly Vacations

Pontifical Council Suggests “Joyful Austerity” for Tourists

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2008 ( The Vatican says vacationers face a choice: to be pro-earth or anti-earth tourists. It is encouraging vacationers to choose the former.

In a message from the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers for this year’s World Tourism Day, scheduled for Sept. 27, the Vatican affirmed that a tourist “can contribute to keeping the planet alive and to curbing the gradual increase of alarming climate change.”

Hence, it is necessary “to cultivate the ethics of responsibility” also in the area of tourism, the statement said. “In this ‘ecological’ logic it is very important to return to the ‘sense of limit,’ against senseless development at all costs, fleeing from the obsession to possess and consume.

“The sense of limit is also cultivated when one acknowledges the existence of the other and the transcendence of the Creator with respect to creatures.”


The pontifical council gave some practical suggestions to become an earth-friendly tourist, including traveling more on foot; choosing hotels and hospitality centers that are ecologically conscious; taking less luggage on vehicles that use a lot of gas; planting trees; buying materials that are recyclable or biodegradable, favoring local arts and crafts; and to respect local legislation and the culture of the place visited.

“It is possible to choose — there are still two paths before us — to be a tourist against the earth or in favor of it,” stated the message. “This means that we are open to a consciousness of brotherhood on an earth that belongs to all and is for all, today and tomorrow.”

To achieve this, the pontifical council suggested developing “a ‘joyful austerity,’ choosing that which is not transitory or corruptible. It is necessary to cultivate charity, also toward the earth, disarming the logic of death and strengthening that of love for this beloved space that belongs to us all […] also for those who will come after us.”

Return to Genesis

In the search for this “moral ecology,” the council suggested a new reflection on Genesis, in which the universe is presented as “a gift that we must preserve, a gift, an ‘Eden,’ where everything fits together in the harmony and joy of living.”

However, sin “broke” this balance, the council recalled, such that “the Garden has been transformed into a desert,” where “contemplation has become usurpation, dialogue has turned into a monologue of omnipotence, brothers have enslaved brothers and peoples have no longer found the tree of life in the Garden, because they have tasted the fruit of the tree of good and evil.”

“The great challenge is to overcome a certain insane narcissism, struggling against egoism and taking care, with lucidity and honesty, of an earth that runs the risk of being destroyed,” it added. This means assuming “one’s own responsibilities, at the individual and collective level, to recreate harmony.”

“It is not right that human beings bring about the end of the earth and the passing of generations through negligence or because of egoistic decisions and an exasperated consumerism, as if others and those who will come after us lacked value,” the council stated. “In a word, there is en egoism regarding the future that is manifested in the absence of pondering and perspective, in indolence and abandonment.”

The council further recalled that Vatican City State “has become the first sovereign state with ‘zero emissions,” thanks to a tree planting project.

That initiative, along with solar panels supplying energy to Paul VI Hall and other undertakings, are some of the things making the Vatican eco-friendly.

With these plans, the Church hopes to demonstrate its “ecological commitment,” the council affirmed, and to encourage all people, “and much more so Christians” to work toward sustaining the planet.

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