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New Vatican document on tourism and travel

The Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People has issued a 26-page document containing reflections on the pastoral mission of Tourism.

Catholic World News reports that the "guide for tourists" was released in time to be available to pastors and pastoral workers in time for the height of the northern hemisphere summer vacation season. It outlines the basic steps that dioceses and parishes may take in order to provide for the spiritual needs of tourists and travellers.

The Pontifical Council - repeating a message recently delivered by Pope John Paul II - stresses that vacation time should not be perceived as a time when moral restrictions are lifted. Ideally, the document suggests, a vacation period, offering chances for rest and relaxation should be an occasion when "man consecrates his time to God... and when he generously dedicates himself to the service of others, especially his family."

Presenting the new document to the press in Rome, Council Secretary Bishop Francesco Gioia observed that travel and tourism have become "phenomena that characterise contemporary society."

In the past 50 years the number of tourists in a given year has soared from 25 million to nearly 700 million. The huge expansion in the number of tourists calls for new pastoral initiatives, he concluded.

The Vatican document also underlines the Pope's insistence that tourism should avoid all forms of exploitation - including not only sexual tourism but also the types of travel that cater to sensationalism and stated exoticism.