Pope condemns human trafficking, sex tourism

By David Kerr

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Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter's Basilica.

Pope Benedict XVI has told a global gathering of those involved in tourism that they must be alert to ethical dangers associated with the travel industry.

“The trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation or organ harvesting as well as the exploitation of minors, abandoned into the hands of individuals without scruples and undergoing abuse and torture, sadly happen often in the context of tourism,” said the Pope April 23.

“This should bring all who are engaged for pastoral reasons or who work in the field of tourism, and the whole international community, to increase their vigilance and to foresee and oppose such aberrations.”

Pope Benedict made his comments in a letter to mark the opening of the VII World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism, which is taking place in the Mexican resort of Cancún from April 23 to 27.

The week-long event is organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and brings together representatives from the Church, governments and the tourism industry to discuss the pastoral care of travelers.

The Pope extolled the benefits of free time and travel as occasions for “physical and spiritual renewal” suggesting that it facilitates “the coming together of people from different cultural backgrounds.” He said travel also paves the way for “listening and contemplation, tolerance and peace, dialogue and harmony in the midst of diversity.”

While the Catholic Church was enthusiastic about these positive aspects to tourism it was also its job to point out “and striving to correct, its risks and deviations.”

Just like “every human reality” tourism “is not exempt from dangers or negative dimensions,” he said. Abuses arising from tourism, therefore, were “evils that must be dealt with urgently” as they “trample upon the rights of millions of men and women, especially among the poor, minors and handicapped.”

He labeled sexual tourism as “one of the most abject of these deviations that devastate morally, psychologically and physically the life of so many persons and families, and sometimes whole communities.”

His hope was that the World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism would help create a “different type of tourism.” This could be achieve, he suggested, by rooting their discussions in the social teaching of the Catholic Church.

“Promote a culture of ethical and responsible tourism, in such a way that it will respect the dignity of persons and of peoples, be open to all, be just, sustainable and ecological.”

He concluded by imparting his apostolic blessing to all those participating in the Cancún conference and entrusted their deliberations to “the powerful intercession of the Mary Most Holy under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

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