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15 Jul, 2015

In Latin America Tour, Pope Francis Trashes Everything Travel & Tourism Considers Holy

If the travel & tourism industry did not pay any attention to the powerful speeches by Pope Francis during his 5-13 July tour of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, three countries considered among the poorest in Latin America, it needs to think again. Trashing everything that the industry considers holy, the head of the 1.2 billion strong Catholic fraternity delivered a damning indictment of the global geopolitical, economic and environmental status quo, called on the global poor to confront a system which he said is becoming “intolerable”, and pledged the backing of the Church in this endeavour.

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Unlikely to be ever heard at an Hotel Investment Conference or a World Economic Forum, the Papal speeches exposed some of the major deficiencies in the travel & tourism policy platform. This is an industry that measures its success entirely on the basis of what the Pope called the “dung of the devil” – money, profitability, asset value, shareholder returns, average daily expenditure. The very definition of a “quality” tourist is measured by how much money that person spends. Over the years, the overwhelming focus has been on generating financial, monetary and economic growth – visa facilitation, investment, accessibility, etc. Only in the last decade or so has the environmental issue entered the mainstream. Travel & tourism forums do not provide an adequate voice to the poor, nor does the industry encourage debate, opposition nor challenging of conventional wisdoms.

The Papal speeches were delivered against the backdrop of a mobilization of the U.N. system that is planning a transition from the Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals, the crisis in Greece, economic uncertainties, climate change, looming droughts in many countries, geopolitical conflicts and natural disasters. Each of these impact the poor first and worst. There is a growing realisation that measuring only Gross National Product is meaningless, and that Gross National Happiness may be more valuable. Ruing the “brutal punishment” and “injustice” faced by the poor, the Pope made no bones about which side he is on. In an indirect swipe at U.S. President Obama’s slogan, “Change You can Believe In,” dating back to his first election campaign in 2008, the Pope said, “We want change, real change, structural change.”

His speeches were delivered not in fancy convention centres but in a flood-prone shantytown and in a disused air base. He also prayed in a chapel in a slum. According to a Reuters report, “Francis looked moved as he heard harrowing tales of life in Banado Norte, a warren of shacks not far from downtown Asuncion that are home to about 100,000 people, many of whom are squatting on city land after being forced from their farms.”

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He prayed for them and with them in their local language. Millions turned out to listen. Millions more followed his speeches on live media broadcasts and over the Internet. He reached out to the ordinary people, the poor, the academics and educators, young people and civil society movements, government officials and diplomats. At one of the speeches, both Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes were in attendance. He coined new phrases such as “integral ecology” and “pseudo-solutions”. He warned about the “rise of new forms of colonialism” and called for more “building bridges, not walls.” He sought to galvanise them into action.

His pronunciations were deeply relevant to travel & tourism across the board. He praised the natural beauty of Bolivia, and its altiplano and valleys, its Amazon region, its deserts and the incomparable lakes. He praised everything that the travel & tourism industry makes money out of – indigenous cultures, local languages, cuisine and architecture. But instead of looking at them from a selfish, individualistic perspective, he referred to them as the product of a Divine Creation designed to generate a common good, requiring a more fair and balanced distribution of the fruits they yield.

He made several points: The existing system is intolerable and unsustainable; pursuit of money is a form of idolatry; global summit conferences achieve nothing; the wealthy are plundering the planet while the poor pay the price; value the planet and think in terms of the poor. He railed against militarism and wars, and called on global leaders to work harder at establishing genuine dialogue and promote peace.

Given the huge potential ripple-effect of these pronunciations, the travel & tourism industry pooh-poohs the Papal voice at its peril, especially given the strength and intensity of the language used. To ensure maximum impact, The Vatican and Catholic Radio have published English translations of all the speeches on their websites. As the travel & tourism industry’s leading alternative-perspective forum, Travel Impact Newswire is reproducing edited excerpts from the Pope’s landmark speeches in anticipation that they will help facilitate balanced discussions and a search for alternative paradigms.

For those who are keen to inculcate some depth into industry discourse and move it beyond the shallow, repetitive focus on social media, booking engines, branding, visa facilitation and promoting growth, growth and more growth, the Papal speeches offer excellent food for thought.

Herebelow are just a few key quotes. Weblinks to the full speeches are listed further down to help pinpoint their broader context.

(+) Do we realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farmworkers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected? Do we realize that something is wrong where so many senseless wars are being fought and acts of fratricidal violence are taking place on our very doorstep? Do we realize something is wrong when the soil, water, air and living creatures of our world are under constant threat? So let’s not be afraid to say it: we need change; we want change.

(+) Certainly every country needs economic growth and the creation of wealth, and the extension of these to each citizen, without exclusion. And this is necessary. But the creation of this wealth must always be at the service of the common good, and not only for the benefit of a few. On this point we must be very clear. For “the worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Those charged with promoting economic development have the responsibility of ensuring that it always has a human face. Economic development must have a human face. We say no to an economy without such a face! They have in their hands the possibility of providing employment for many persons and in this way of giving hope to many families. Putting bread on the table, putting a roof over the heads of one’s children, giving them health and an education – these are essential for human dignity, and business men and women, politicians, economists, must feel challenged in this regard. I ask them not to yield to an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit. In economics, in business and in politics, what counts first and foremost, in every instance, is the human person and the environment in which he or she lives.

(+) The goods of the earth are meant for everyone, and however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage. In this way we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, towards social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life.

(+) Migration, overcrowded cities, consumerism, crises in the family, unemployment and pockets of poverty: all these factors create uncertainty and tensions which threaten social harmony. Laws and regulations, as well as social planning, need to aim at inclusion, create opportunities for dialogue and encounter, while leaving behind all forms of repression, excessive control or loss of freedom as painful past memories.

(+) The first task is to put the economy at the service of peoples. Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money. Let us say NO to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth. The economy should not be a mechanism for accumulating goods, but rather the proper administration of our common home. This entails a commitment to care for that home and to the fitting distribution of its goods among all. It is not only about ensuring a supply of food or “decent sustenance”. Nor, although this is already a great step forward, is it to guarantee the three “L’s” of land, lodging and labor for which you are working. A truly communitarian economy, one might say an economy of Christian inspiration, must ensure peoples’ dignity and their “general, temporal welfare and prosperity”.

(+) Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment. It is about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right. The universal destination of goods is not a figure of speech found in the Church’s social teaching. It is a reality prior to private property. Property, especially when it affects natural resources, must always serve the needs of peoples. And those needs are not restricted to consumption. It is not enough to let a few drops fall whenever the poor shake a cup which never runs over by itself. Welfare programs geared to certain emergencies can only be considered temporary responses. They will never be able to replace true inclusion, an inclusion which provides worthy, free, creative, participatory and solidary work.

(+) A people which forgets its own past, its history and its roots, has no future, it is a dull people. Memory, if it is firmly based on justice and rejects hatred and all desire for revenge, makes the past a source of inspiration for the building of a future of serene coexistence. It also makes us realize the tragedy and pointlessness of war. Let there be an end to wars between brothers! Let us always build peace! A peace which grows stronger day by day, a peace which makes itself felt in everyday life, a peace to which each person contributes by seeking to avoid signs of arrogance, hurtful words, contemptuousness, and instead by working to foster understanding, dialogue and cooperation.

(+) To care for children, and to help young people to embrace noble ideals, is a guarantee of the future of society; and the Church wants a society which discovers renewed strength when it values, respects and also cares for its elderly; for they are the ones who carry forward the wisdom of the people; protecting the ones who today are cast aside because of so many interests that place the god of mammon at the heart of economic life; children and young people are discarded, who are a country’s future, and the elderly who are the people’s memory; and so they must be taken care of, they must be protected; they are our future.

(+) There is a relationship between our life and that of Mother Earth, between the way we live and the gift we have received from God. “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation” (Laudato Si’, 48).

(+) My question to you, as educators, is this: Do you watch over your students, helping them to develop a critical sense, an open mind capable of caring for today’s world? A spirit capable of seeking new answers to the varied challenges that society sets before us? Are you able to encourage them not to disregard the world around them? Does our life, with its uncertainties, mysteries and questions, find a place in the university curriculum or different academic activities? Do we enable and support a constructive debate which fosters dialogue in the pursuit of a more humane world?

(+) We need to ask ourselves about the kind of culture we want not only for ourselves, but for our children and our grandchildren. We have received this earth as an inheritance, as a gift, in trust. We would do well to ask ourselves: “What kind of world do we want to leave behind? What meaning or direction do we want to give to our lives? Why have we been put here? What is the purpose of our work and all our efforts?” (cf. Laudato Si’, 160).

(+) A despairing heart finds it easy to succumb to a way of thinking which is becoming ever more widespread in our world today. It is a mentality in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable. This way of thinking has room only for a select few, while it discards all those who are “unproductive”, unsuitable or unworthy, since clearly those people don’t “add up”.

(+) The natural environment is closely related to the social, political and economic environment. It is urgent for all of us to lay the foundations of an integral ecology – this is a question of health – an integral ecology capable of respecting all these human dimensions in resolving the grave social and environmental issues of our time. Otherwise, the glaciers of those mountains will continue to recede, and our sense of gratitude and responsibility with regard to these gifts, our concern for the world we want to leave to future generations, for its meaning and values, will melt just like those glaciers.

(+) It is very easy for us to become accustomed to the atmosphere of inequality all around us, with the result that we take it for granted. Without even being conscious of it, we confuse the “common good” with “prosperity”, and so it goes, sliding bit by bit, and the ideal of the “common good” gets lost, ending up in “prosperity”, especially when we are the ones who enjoy that prosperity, and not the others. Prosperity understood only in terms of material wealth has a tendency to become selfish; it tends to defend private interests, to be unconcerned about others, and to give free rein to consumerism. Understood in this way, prosperity, instead of helping, breeds conflict and social disintegration; as it becomes more prevalent, it opens the door to the evil of corruption, which brings so much discouragement and damage in its wake.

(+) These days it is essential to improve diplomatic relations between the countries of the region, in order to avoid conflicts between sister peoples and to advance frank and open dialogue about their problems. And I am thinking here of the sea; dialogue is essential. Instead of raising walls, we need to be building bridges. Building bridges instead of raising walls. All these issues, thorny as they may be, can find shared solutions; solutions which are reasonable, equitable and lasting. And in any event, they should never be a cause for aggressivity (sic), resentment or enmity; these only worsen situations and stand in the way of their resolution.

(+) I wonder whether we can see that these destructive realities are part of a system which has become global. Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature? If such is the case, I would insist, let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change. This system is by now intolerable: farmworkers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable … The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable. We want change in our lives, in our neighborhoods, in our everyday reality. We want a change which can affect the entire world, since global interdependence calls for global answers to local problems. The globalization of hope, a hope which springs up from peoples and takes root among the poor, must replace the globalization of exclusion and indifference!

(+) The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.

(+) We are suffering from an excess of diagnosis, which at times leads us to multiply words and to revel in pessimism and negativity. Looking at the daily news we think that there is nothing to be done, except to take care of ourselves and the little circle of our family and friends.

(+) What can I do, as collector of paper, old clothes or used metal, a recycler, about all these problems if I barely make enough money to put food on the table? What can I do as a craftsman, a street vendor, a trucker, a downtrodden worker, if I don’t even enjoy workers’ rights? What can I do, a farmwife, a native woman, a fisher who can hardly fight the domination of the big corporations? What can I do from my little home, my shanty, my hamlet, my settlement, when I daily meet with discrimination and marginalization? What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with their hearts full of hopes and dreams, but without any real solution for my problems? A lot! They can do a lot. You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three “L’s” (labor, lodging, land) and through your proactive participation in the great processes of change on the national, regional and global levels. Don’t lose heart!

(+) It is essential that, along with the defense of their legitimate rights, peoples and their social organizations be able to construct a humane alternative to a globalization which excludes. You are sowers of change. May God grant you the courage, joy, perseverance and passion to continue sowing. Be assured that sooner or later we will see its fruits.

(+) The Church cannot and must not remain aloof from this process in her proclamation of the Gospel. Many priests and pastoral workers carry out an enormous work of accompanying and promoting the excluded throughout the world, alongside cooperatives, favouring businesses, providing housing, working generously in the fields of health, sports and education. I am convinced that respectful cooperation with the popular movements can revitalize these efforts and strengthen processes of change

(+) Dialogue presupposes and demands that we seek a culture of encounter; an encounter which acknowledges that diversity is not only good, it is necessary. Uniformity nullifies us, it makes us robots. The richness of life is in diversity. For this reason, the point of departure cannot be, “I’m going to dialogue but he’s wrong”. No, no, we must not presume that the other person is wrong. I dialogue with my identity but I’m going to listen to what the other person has to say, how I can be enriched by the other, who makes me realize my mistakes and see the contribution I can offer. It is a going out and a coming back, always with an open heart. If I presume that the other person is wrong, it’s better to go home and not dialogue, would you not agree? Dialogue is for the common good and the common good is sought by starting from our differences, constantly leaving room for new alternatives. In other words, look for something new. When dialogue is authentic, it ends up with – allow me to use the word and to use it in a noble way – a new agreement, in which we all agree on something. Are there differences? They remain to one side, to be looked at again later. But on those things that we are agreed, we are committed and we defend them.

Click on the links to access the full texts of the speeches:

Pope Francis: Greetings to faithful at Quito cathedral

Pope Francis: Speech at World Meeting of Popular Movements

Pope Francis: Address to Civil Leaders in Quito, Ecuador

Pope Francis: Address to civil society representatives

Pope Francis: Address to educators, students

Pope Francis: Meeting with Government authorities, diplomatic personnel, Paraguay

Pope Francis: Meeting With Representatives Of Civil Society, Paraguay

More speeches by the Pope in various languages


More speeches by the Pope in various languages