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In Mexico the much-discussed role of pilgrimages

In Mexico the much-discussed role of pilgrimages

On the theme “Tourism that makes the difference”, from April 23 – 27 in Cancun, Mexico, 200 people gathered for the Seventh World Congress on the pastoral care of tourism. The work of the seminar, organized by the Pontifical Council for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people, centered around three topics: “tourism in general, religious tourism and tourism of the Christians”.

The figures alone provided by the World Tourism Organization justify the importance of this congress: in 2011, 980 million international tourists were recorded. An increase of 4.4% that one could foresee, for 2012, reaching one billion. Among them, many thousands have chosen a different tourism, the pilgrimage.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his message to Congress, invites us to understand the “several occasions” that tourism offers to “present Christ as the supreme response to the questions of modern man”. He encourages the pastoral care of tourism to “accompany Christians in the enjoyment of their holiday and leisure ( …) to the advantage of human and spiritual growth”. For Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, President of the Dicastery which has organized this Seventh Congress, “religious tourism”, in the language of the “via pulchritudinis” (the path of beauty), is a genuine “journey toward God” and an aid to “growing in relationship with Him”. The Cardinal noted that the Church must “support Christians in the time of the rest” and must also think of the New Evangelization, because she must evangelize “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4.2 ).

The ” beneficial contagion ” of the Holy Land according to Patriarch Twal.

The wish of the Cardinal echoes the words of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem on the occasion of the Seminar for Social Communications of the Middle East which took place in Lebanon from April 17-20. In his conference, the Patriarch Archbishop Twal insisted on the concept of “pilgrimage as a vehicle of communication”.  He also encourages pilgrims to “assist at a Sunday Mass in a parish in order to meet the living stones of this Church. So that when they return to their homes they will share their experience of the Holy Land”. Since, he stresses, “the Holy Land itself speaks”.  As “blessed land” she “should possess a beneficial contagion “.

Tourism, “a tool to build bridges between peoples”

In a video message addressed to the International Congress of the Pastoral Care of Tourism, Mr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary general of the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations (OMT) explained how tourism is “a powerful tool to build bridges between peoples, faiths and cultures” this also is a certainty for Archbishop Twal who does not cease, from the time of his appointment as Patriarch in 2008, to urge pilgrims of the whole world to “come and visit their mother Church”.  Let us remember the words that he said on the occasion of New Year greetings on January 1, 2012: “to our dear pilgrim friends, be aware that a pilgrimage to the Land of Jesus is a unique opportunity to create relationships of friendship and solidarity, which represent a step in the midst of a thousand other steps and which finally lead to create a culture of peace”. 

Amélie de La Hougue