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Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Pontifical
Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples
published a letter today for World Tourism Day addressing the theme of “Tourism
and Biodiversity” as proposed by the World Tourism Organization; the theme of
“International Year for Biological Diversity” was adopted by the General
Assembly of the United Nations in 2006. As Archbishop Vegliò noted, “This
proclamation was born of the deep concern for ‘the social, economic,
environmental and cultural implications of the loss of biodiversity, including
negative impacts on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and
stressing the necessity to adopt concrete measures in order to reverse it.'”

particular Council, according to the 1987 Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus,
has as its work the “pastoral solicitude of the Church to the particular needs
of those who have been forced to abandon their homeland, as well as to those
who have none” (149) and “is committed to assuring that journeys undertaken for
reasons of piety, study or relaxation may aid in the moral and religious
formation of the faithful; It assists particular Churches so that all those who
are far from home may be given adequate pastoral assistance (151). It also
oversees the Apostleship of the Sea.

The Church intensively cares for, is present to, the welfare
of her children, indeed, she wants the happiness of all peoples, regardless of people’s particulars. Why are these
paragraphs important to me and perhaps to you?  Because Archbishop Vegliò focuses our attention on the
creative action of God in making the world ex nihilo and that He sustains us. I
don’t believe the Church is being politically correct in advocating “green theology”
because it is fashionable. And, I don’t think it would be acceptable to be
dismissive of matters pertaining to the environment; whether we realize it or not, proper balance and respect for the environment is
necessary for us today and in the future. This is why I think that dioceses, parishes, monasteries and school –in short, all constituencies– ought to incorporate in their pastoral programs a proper catechesis on various subjects that promote and develop an environmental perspective. Catholics ought to take charge in being environmentally sensitive
because of our fundamental belief that God is the creator of world, it is Scripturally well-founded, that God is the
creator of us personally and because we care for all things that allow our
humanity to thrive; and not least is the fact that all things are given for
sustaining our life and giving glory to God. In other words, we really can’t
opt out of caring for the environment and calling those who abuse the
environment on the micro and macro levels to be accountable. I wonder if one can argue that it is a mortal sin to abuse the environment. Respect for our biodiversity is not only a matter of faith and reason but our faith and good public order. 

Nevertheless, Vegliò shows us
that the Church is providing leadership for an authentic environmental
perspective and goal that is truly human and humane. All our work should be
balanced, reasonable and sustainable for the common good.

Some pertinent paragraphs of Archbishop
Vegliò’s letter follows:

As Pope Benedict XVI points out in his Encyclical
letter Caritas in veritate, “in nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful
result of God’s creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our
legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance
of creation” (48) and whose use represents for us “a responsibility towards the
poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole” (49). For
this tourism must be respectful of the environment, looking to reach a perfect
harmony with creation, so as to guarantee the sustainability of the resources
on which it depends, while not leading to irreversible ecological

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Contact with nature is important and therefore tourism must
make an effort to respect and value the beauty of creation, from the conviction
that “many people experience peace and tranquility, renewal and
reinvigoration, when they come into close contact with the beauty and harmony
of nature. There exists a certain reciprocity: as we care for creation, we
realize that God, through creation, cares for us” (Benedict XVI, World Day of
Peace 2010 message, 13).

There is an element that makes even this effort more
imperative than ever. In the search for God, the human being discovers ways to
bring himself closer to the Mystery, which has creation as a starting point
(CCC 31). Nature and biological diversity speak to us of God Creator, He that
makes himself present in His creation, “for from the greatness and the
beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen (Wis. 13:5),
“for the original source of beauty fashioned them.” (Wis. 13:3) This
is why the world, in its diversity, “presents itself before man’s eyes as
evidence of God, the place where his creative, providential and redemptive
power unfolds” (CSD 487) For this reason, tourism, bringing us closer to
creation in its variety and wealth, can be an occasion to promote and increase
the religious experience.

All of this makes looking for a balance between
tourism and biological diversity, in which they mutually support each other,
urgent and necessary, so that economic development and environmental protection
do not appear as opposed and incompatible elements, but rather that there is a
tendency to reconcile the demands of both (CSD 470).