The Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers (Messages)


Message for 2010 World Tourism Day
"Tourism Cannot Relieve Itself of Its Responsibility to Defend Biodiversity"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 29, 2010 - Here is the message for World Tourism Day 2010, which will be observed Sept. 27. The theme for the day will be "Tourism and Biodiversity." The Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers released the message on Monday.

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Under the theme of "Tourism and Biodiversity" proposed by the World Tourism Organization, World Tourism Day hopes to offer its contribution to 2010's "International Year for Biological Diversity," declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

This proclamation was born of the deep concern for "the social, economic, environmental and cultural implications of the loss of biodiversity, including negative impacts on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and stressing the necessity to adopt concrete measures in order to reverse it."[1]

Biodiversity, or biological diversity, refers to the great wealth of beings that live on Earth, as well as the delicate equilibrium of interdependence and interaction that exists between them and the physical environment that hosts and conditions them. This biodiversity is translated into different ecosystems, of which examples can be found in forests, wetlands, savannah, jungles, deserts, coral reefs, mountains, seas and polar zones.

There are three imminent and grave dangers to them that require an urgent solution: climate change, desertification and the loss of biodiversity. The latter has been developing in recent years at an unprecedented rate. Recent studies indicate that on a worldwide level 22% of mammals, 31% of amphibians, 13.6% of bird life and 27% of reefs are threatened or in danger of extinction.[2]

There are numerous areas of human activity that largely contribute to these changes, and one of them is, without a doubt, tourism, which is among those activities that have experienced great and rapid growth. In this regard, we can look to the statistics that the World Tourism Organization offers us. With international tourist travel numbering 534 million in 1995 and 682 million in 2000, estimates from the organization's "Tourism 2020 Vision" report are 1.006 billion for the year 2010 and reaching 1.561 billion in 2020, at an average annual growth rate of 4.1%.[3] And to these statistics of international tourism one would have to add the even more important internal tourism numbers. All of this points to strong growth in this economic sector, which brings with it some major effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and the consequent danger of their transformation into serious environmental impacts - especially in regard to the exorbitant consumption of limited resources (such as potable water and land) and the enormous generation of pollution and residues, exceeding the quantities that might be withstood by a determined area.

The situation is seen to be aggravated by the fact that tourist demand directs itself more and more towards natural destinations, attracted by their beauty, which leads to a major impact on the populations visited, on their economies, on their cultural heritage and on the environment. This fact can actually either be a harmful element or, on the contrary, contribute significantly and in a positive way to the conservation of the heritage. In this way tourism lives a paradox. If on the one hand it emerges and grows thanks to the attraction of some natural and cultural sites, on the other hand the very same tourism can become detrimental and even destructive, and as such the tourism sites end up being rejected as destinations for not possessing their original attraction.

For all of this, we must assert that tourism cannot relieve itself of its responsibility to defend biodiversity. On the contrary rather, it must assume an active role in it. This economic sector's development inevitably needs to be accompanied by the principles of sustainability and respect for biological diversity.

The international community has concerned itself seriously with these matters, and on this theme it has made reiterated proclamations.[4] The Church would like to add her voice, from the space which is hers, beginning from the conviction that she herself "has a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere. In so doing, she must defend not only earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. She must above all protect mankind from self-destruction."[5] Without entering into the question of concrete technical solutions, that would go beyond her competency, the Church concerns herself with drawing attention to the relationship between the Creator, the human being and creation.[6] Church teaching reiterates insistently the responsibility of the human being in the preservation of an integral and healthy environment for all, from the conviction that the "care for the environment represents a challenge for all of humanity. It is a matter of a common and universal duty, that of respecting a common good."[7]

As Pope Benedict XVI points out in his Encyclical letter Caritas in veritate, "in nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God's creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation,”[8] and whose use represents for us "a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole."[9] For this tourism must be respectful of the environment, looking to reach a perfect harmony with creation, so as to guarantee the sustainability of the resources on which it depends, while not leading to irreversible ecological transformations.

Contact with nature is important and therefore tourism must make an effort to respect and value the beauty of creation, from the conviction that "many people experience peace and tranquility, renewal and reinvigoration, when they come into close contact with the beauty and harmony of nature. There exists a certain reciprocity: as we care for creation, we realize that God, through creation, cares for us."[10]

There is an element that makes even this effort more imperative than ever. In the search for God, the human being discovers ways to bring himself closer to the Mystery, which has creation as a starting point.[11] Nature and biological diversity speak to us of God Creator, He that makes himself present in His creation, "for from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen (Wis. 13:5), "for the original source of beauty fashioned them." (Wis. 13:3) This is why the world, in its diversity, "presents itself before man's eyes as evidence of God, the place where his creative, providential and redemptive power unfolds."[12] For this reason, tourism, bringing us closer to creation in its variety and wealth, can be an occasion to promote and increase the religious experience.

All of this makes looking for a balance between tourism and biological diversity, in which they mutually support each other, urgent and necessary, so that economic development and environmental protection do not appear as opposed and incompatible elements, but rather that there is a tendency to reconcile the demands of both.[13]

Efforts to protect and promote biological diversity in its relation with tourism are developed, firstly, through participative and shared strategies, in which the implied diverse sectors are involved. The majority of governments, international institutions, professional associations of the tourist sector and non-governmental organizations defend, with a long-term vision, the necessity of sustainable tourism as the only possible form in order for their development to simultaneously be economically profitable, protect natural and cultural resources and serve as a real help in the fight against poverty.

Public authorities must offer clear legislation that protects and fortifies biodiversity, reinforcing the benefits and reducing the costs of tourism, while at the same time ensuring the fulfillment of norms.[14] This must surely be accompanied by a major investment in planning and education. Governments efforts will need to be great in those places which are most vulnerable and where the degradation is greater. Perhaps in some of them, tourism should be restricted or even avoided.

For its part, the business sector of tourism is asked to "conceive, develop and conduct their businesses minimizing negative effects on, and positively contributing to, the conservation of sensitive ecosystems and the environment in general, and directly benefiting and including local and indigenous communities."[15] For this, it would be convenient to carry out a priori studies of the sustainability of each tourism product, shedding light on the real, positive contributions as well as potential risks, from the conviction that the sector cannot seek the objective of maximum benefit at any cost.[16]

Finally, tourists must be conscious that their presence in a place is not always positive. With this end, they must be informed of the real benefits that the conservation of biodiversity brings with it, and be educated in methods of sustainable tourism. Likewise, tourist should demand tourist business proposals that truly contribute to the development of the place. In no case, neither the land nor the historical-cultural heritage of the destination should be damaged in favor of the tourist, adapting itself to their tastes and desires. A major effort, in a special way the pastoral care of tourism must realize, is the education in contemplation, that helps to tourists have the ability to discover the sign of God in the great wealth of biodiversity.

In this way, from the hand of a tourism that develops in harmony with creation, it will be made possible that in the heart of the tourist the praise of the psalmist is repeated, “O Lord, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth!” (Ps. 8, 2).

Vatican City, June 24, 2010
Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto
Archbishop Secretary


[1] UNITED NATIONS, Resolution A/RES/61/203 adopted by the General Assembly, Dec. 20, 2006.

[2] Cf J.-C. VIÉ, C. HILTON-TAYLOR and S. N. STUART (eds.), Wildlife in a Changing World. An analysis of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Gland, Switzerland, 2009, p. 18:

[3] Cf

[4] A first document to review is the Charter for Sustainable Tourism, adopted during the “World Conference on Sustainable Tourism”, celebrated in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain, from April 27-28, 1995. Together, the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Earth Council Alliance produced the report Agenda 21 for Tourism and Travel Industry: Towards an Environmentally Sustainable Development in 1996, which translates the UN's Agenda 21 into a program of action for tourism for the promotion of sustainable development (and was adopted in the Earth Summit that was celebrated in Río de Janeiro in 1992). Another significant reference is the Berlin Declaration, the conclusive document of the “International Conference on Biodiversity and Tourism,” which took place in the German capital from March 6 - 8, 1997. This document may possibly be the most important contribution, due to its elaboration, influence, diffusion and signatories. Several months later, the Manila declaration on Social Impact of Tourism was signed, in which the importance of a series of principles in favor of sustainability in tourism were highlighted. As a fruit of the “World Ecotourism Summit,” organized in May of 2002 by the WTO, with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Québec Declaration on Ecotourism was published. Within the framework of the “Convention on Biological Diversity,” in 2004 the Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development were edited. To all these documents of international nature one must unite the numerous guides and summaries of good practices that the WTO has published in regard to this theme, and among which could be highlighted the so-titled Making Tourism More Sustainable: A Guide for Policy Makers, edited in 2005 in collaboration with the UNEP.

[5] BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical letter Caritas in veritate, n. 51: AAS 101 (2009), p. 687.

[6] Cf BENEDICT XVI, Message for the celebration of XLIII World Day of Peace, Dec. 8, 2009, n. 4: L’Osservatore Romano, n. 290 (45.333), Dec. 16, 2009, p. 6.

[7] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL “JUSTICE AND PEACE”, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 2004, n. 466. See JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical letter Centesimus annus, n. 40: AAS 83 (1991) p. 843

[8] BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical letter Caritas in veritate, n. 48, l.c., p. 684.

[9] Ibidem.

[10] BENEDICT XVI, Message for the celebration of XLIII World Day of Peace, 2010, n. 13, l.c., p. 5.

[11] Cf The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City ,1997, n. 31, l.c.

[12] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL “JUSTICE AND PEACE”, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 487,l.c.

[13] Cf Ibidem, n. 470.

[14] Cf BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical letter Caritas in veritate, n. 50, l.c., p. 686.

[15] WORLD ECOTOURISM SUMMIT, Final Report. Québec Declaration on Ecotourism, May 22, 2002, World Tourism Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, Madrid 2002, recommendation 21.

[16] Cf WORLD TOURISM ORGANIZATION, Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, Oct. 1, 1999, art. 3 §4:


Vatican Message for 2011 World Tourism Day
"The Meeting of ... Cultures Permits an Enrichment of Each One's Own Reality"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2011 - Here is the message of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers for the 2011 World Tourism Day, which will be observed Sept. 27 with the theme "Tourism Linking Cultures."

The message, released Wednesday, was signed by Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò and Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, president and secretary of the dicastery, respectively.

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On September 27, we celebrate the World Tourism Day, promoted by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which has enjoyed even from its very first celebration in 1980 the support of the Holy See.

The theme of this year, "Tourism Linking Cultures," wishes to highlight the importance that traveling has in the meeting of the different cultures of the world, especially in our present day world where more than ninety million people travel internationally, favored thus by modern means of communication and lower associated costs.

In this way, tourism presents itself as "breaking down barriers across cultures and fostering tolerance, respect and mutual understanding. In our often divided world, these values represent the stepping stones towards a more peaceful future."[1]

With a broad concept of culture that includes -- besides the history or artistic and ethnographic patrimony -- the lifestyles, relationships, beliefs, and values, we not only affirm the existence of cultural diversity, but in line with the magisterium of the Church, we value it as indeed positive. Thus "once diversity has been accepted as a positive factor, it is necessary to ensure that people not only accept the existence of other cultures," as Benedict XVI affirms, "but also desire to be enriched by them," [2] welcoming the true, good, and beautiful therein.

To achieve this objective, tourism extends to us all its possibilities. The Global Code of Ethics for Tourism affirms that "when practiced with a sufficiently open mind, it is an irreplaceable factor of self-education, mutual tolerance and for learning about the legitimate differences between peoples and cultures and their diversity."[3] This, by its very nature, can favor meeting as well as dialogue, as it places one in contact with other places, traditions, manners of living, and other forms of seeing the world and conceiving history. For all of these reasons, tourism is certainly a privileged event.

However, regarding dialogue, the first condition that is required is that of knowing how to listen, to want to be questioned by the other, desiring to discover the message within each monument, cultural manifestation, all of this being done with respect, without prejudice or exclusion, and avoiding biased readings. It is thus equally important "to know how to welcome" as to "know how to travel." This means that tourism should be organized with respect for the peculiar nature, laws, and customs of the receiving countries, all of which the tourists themselves should be acquainted with before their departure so as to better understand the place they are going to visit. That being said, also those communities receiving tourists and professional agents should know the lifestyles and expectations of the tourists that visit them.[4]

Given the fact that every culture contains in itself certain limits, the meeting of different cultures permits an enrichment of each one's own reality. This is evident in the affirmation of Blessed John Paul II that "the 'difference' which some find so threatening can, through respectful dialogue, become the source of a deeper understanding of the mystery of human existence."[5]

One objective of our pastoral care of tourism will certainly be to educate and prepare Christians so that these cultural encounters are productive in their travels and not lost opportunities, but contrarily, that they would truly serve as a personal enrichment, helping to know the other, and to know one's self.

In this dialogue that produces the fruit of linking cultures, we are convinced that the Church has much to contribute. "In the cultural arena too," teaches Benedict XVI, "Christianity must offer to all a most powerful force of renewal and exaltation, that is, the Love of God who makes himself human love."[6] The cultural patrimony of the Church is indeed immense, understood in the broad sense that we previously explained, which arises from the experience of faith, of the encounter between culture and the Gospel, as the fruit of the profound religious experience of the Christian community. Certainly, the works of art and historical memory have an enormous potential to evangelize, in as much as they are placed in the context of the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, which is "a privileged and fascinating path on which to approach the Mystery of God."[7]

It must be an objective priority of our pastoral care of tourism to show the true meaning of this cultural heritage, born from faith and for the glory of God. Along these lines, the words of Blessed John Paul II directed toward workers in the pastoral care of tourism still resound: "You are cooperating in forming an outlook which is also a type of reawakening of the soul to the things of the spirit by helping visitors to get back to the sources of faith which built these edifices, and by making visible the Church of living stones which Christian communities are made of."[8] It is therefore important that we present this patrimony in its authenticity, illustrating its true religious nature, placing it in the liturgical context in which and for which it was born.

As we are conscious that the Church "exists in order to evangelize," [9] we must always ask ourselves: How can we welcome people in holy places so that they come to better know and love the Lord? How can we facilitate an encounter between God and each one of the people that are there welcomed? It must be highlighted that, in the first place, the importance of an adequate welcome, "should take into consideration the specific characteristics of each group and each individual, the yearnings of their hearts and their authentic spiritual needs" [10] and is manifested by a variety of elements: from the simple details to the personal availability to listen, to the accompaniment throughout the duration of the stay.

In this regard, and with the objective of promoting this intercultural dialogue and taking advantage of our cultural patrimony at the service of evangelization, it is fitting to adopt a series of concrete pastoral initiatives. All of these must be integrated into a broad program of interpretation that, together with historical-cultural information, illustrates in a clear and accessible way the original and profound religious meaning of these cultural manifestations, using for this modern and attractive means, and taking advantage of the personal and technological resources that are at our disposal.

Among these concrete proposals there is the elaboration of the idea of touristic travel offering visitation to the places that are most important in the religious and cultural patrimony of the diocese. Along with this, broad time periods of open hours should be favored, thus making available an adequate welcoming. In this way, the spiritual and cultural formation of tourist guides is important, and thus one can see the value in the possibility of creating organizations of catholic tour guides. With this, the elaboration of "local publications in the guise of tourist guides, Web pages, or specialized journals on patrimony, with the pedagogical aim of highlighting the soul, inspiration and message of works, scientific analysis is thereby put at the service of a deeper understanding of the work."[11]

We cannot allow ourselves to view the tourist visit as simply a step in pre-evangelization, but on the contrary, we must see it as a platform to realize the clear and explicit announcement of Jesus Christ.

I would like now also to take advantage of this opportunity to officially announce the celebration of VII World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism, that will take place in Cancun (Mexico) the week of April 23-27, 2012. This event, organized by our pontifical council in collaboration with the Mexican Episcopal Conference and the Prelature of Cancun-Chetumal, will certainly be an important opportunity to continue the consideration of concrete proposals that the pastoral care of tourism requires in the present times.

+ Antonio Maria Vegliò, President

+ Joseph Kalathiparambil, Secretary


[1] TALEB RIFAI, UNWTO Secretary-General, World Tourism Day Message 2011.

[2] BENEDICT XVI, Letter on the Occasion of the Study Day Organized by the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue and for Culture on the theme "Culture and Religions in Dialogue", 3 December 2008.

[3] WORLD TOURISM ORGANIZATION, Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, 1 October 1999, art. 2 § 1.

[4] Cfr. WORLD TOURISM ORGANIZATION, Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, 1 October 1999, art. 1.

[5] JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 5 October 1995, n. 10.

[6] BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Participants in the Study Convention on the Occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, 15 June 2007.

[7] BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, 18 November 2009.

[8] John Paul II, Discourse to the Participants at the 4th World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism, 17 November 1990, n. 4.

[9] PAUL VI, Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, n. 14.

[10] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE PASTORAL CARE OF MIGRANTS AND ITINERANT PEOPLE, The Shrine. Memory, Presence and Prophecy of the Living God, 8 May 1999, n. 12.

[11] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR CULTURE, Concluding Document of the Plenary Assembly "The Via Pulchritudinis, Privileged Pathway for Evangelization and Dialogue", 27-28 March 2006.


Message For Sunday's Celebration of Seafarers
"Our Life Greatly Benefits From Their Hard Labor"

ROME, JULY 9, 2011 - Here is the message for Sea Sunday from the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers. Sea Sunday 2011 is marked this Sunday, July 10.

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Dear chaplains, volunteers, friends and supporters of the Apostleship of the Sea,

The celebration of Sea Sunday is a special occasion to increase awareness in the Christian communities and society at large of the indispensable services that seafarers are rendering to all of us, and to present the maritime ministry carried out since 1920 by the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea in many ports of the world.

"My presence among you today would like to stress that the Church is close to you, honors your often dangerous and hard work, is aware of your worries and concerns, supports your rights, and gives comfort to your loneliness and homesickness".

These words which Blessed John Paul II addressed to the seafarers and fishers in the city of Fano (Italy) in his homily on 12th August 1984 are a great message of hope for the almost 1.5 million seafarers from over 100 nations (2/3 of them from developing countries) who are serving daily the needs of the global economy by transporting 90% of world trade.

Though our life greatly benefits from their hard labor and sacrifices, seafarers are a category of workers whom we do not know much about, except when they make the headlines because of some tragedies at sea, or, more recently, because of the increase in vessel hijackings by pirates, but there are very many problems that affect their lives.

In recent years, the criminalization of crews for maritime accidents (shipwrecks, pollution, etc.), the abandonment of seafarers in foreign ports without food or money, the new restrictions on shore leave, the lack of safety and security, and long periods on board have added further stress and strain not only to the seafarers' lives, but also to their families and relatives as well.

The Apostleship of the Sea is aware of the many inhuman situations that persist in the maritime world and it stands at the side of seafarers to reiterate that their human and labor rights must be respected. Recalling our recent statement on piracy (26th May 2011), we stress the importance for the maritime sector (ship owners, P&I Clubs, etc.) to work hand in hand with governments, international organizations and welfare service providers to put preventive measures in place in order to guarantee the seafarers' safety. To provide further protection to the people working at sea, we appeal to all national governments to immediately adopt the ILO Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) 2006 and favor its coming into force. Otherwise, it would have only theoretical value, even though it is one of the most significant achievements in the entire history of seafarers' rights.

In its fight for justice in the maritime world, the Apostleship of the Sea is guided by the principles of the Gospel and the teaching of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The words of Pope Pius XI on 17th April 1922 approving and blessing the first Constitution and Rules of the Apostleship of the Sea, encourage us to continue the mission "to expand the maritime ministry" so that the Work "will gather the most abundant fruits of salvation".

90 years after this important event in the history of the Apostleship of the Sea, I am pleased to announce that next year we will hold the XXIII World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea in Rome from 19th to 23rd November, to reflect and share the challenges brought by the continuous changes in the maritime world.

Finally, on this special day dedicated to the people of the sea, I entrust the seafaring and fishing communities to the maternal protection of Mary, Stella Maris.

Antonio Maria Vegliò


Joseph Kalathiparambil