The Beatitudes in Tourism …
Living Words from John Paul II
Edited by Abraham A. van Kempen
Published Sunday, August 02, 2020
Each week we let Saint Pope John Paul II share meaningful signposts to spark socio-economic resolves through justice and righteousness combined with mercy and compassion; in short, love.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit..." (Matthew 5: 3)
Tourism reminds us of Jesus' words, an ever-timely invitation to show solidarity to the poor, the hungry, and the needy, which challenges believers.
The Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ, express the vocation of the faithful; and, shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life.
It would be severe if the disciple of Christ were to forget this precisely in his leisure time or during a tourist trip, that is when he could be dedicating himself to a broader contemplation of the "face of Christ" in the neighbor with whom he comes into contact.
Tourist activity can play an essential role in the fight against poverty, from the financial as well as the social and cultural viewpoints. Travelling provides an opportunity to become acquainted with different places and situations and to realize what an enormous gap exists between the rich and emerging countries. It is also possible to make better use of local resources and activities, fostering the involvement of the poorer classes of the population.
The tourist journey or stay is always an encounter with different persons and cultures. Everywhere, but especially in developing countries, the visitor and the tourist can hardly avoid coming into contact with the painful reality of poverty and hunger. In this case, people must not only resist the temptation to retreat into a sort of "happy cocoon," distancing themselves from the social context; instead, they should refrain from profiting from their privileged position to exploit the "needs" of the locals.
May their visit, therefore, be an opportunity for dialogue among persons of equal dignity. May it generate a more profound knowledge of the local inhabitants, their history, and their culture. May it prompt sincere openness to an understanding of others expressed in concrete gestures of solidarity.
We must work to ensure that the achievement of well-being for a few privileged individuals is never to the detriment of the quality of life of the many others. Here can be applied what I wrote in a more general sense in my Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis on economic relations:
"One must denounce the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipulated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuating the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest... Later on, these mechanisms will have to be subjected to a careful analysis under the ethical-moral aspect" (n. 16).
"When it is the Lord's teaching that sheds light on life, let us feel bound to ensure that all our activities, including tourist activities, should be an expression of that "new "creativity' in charity" which makes us close "to those who suffer so that the hand that helps is seen not as a humiliating handout but as a sharing between brothers and sisters" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 50).
This solidarity is expressed above all in respect for the personal dignity of the local people, their culture and their customs with a willingness to get to know them through dialogue, aimed at promoting the integral development of each one. On a tourist trip, this attitude becomes yet more demanding; the more tangible the differences in civilization, culture, social conditions, and religion become.
I warmly hope that tourist activity will always be an effective means of alleviating poverty, fostering the personal and social growth of individuals and peoples, and the consolidation of participation and cooperation among nations, cultures, and religions.
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