In a message to the seventh World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism, being held in Cancun, Mexico, the spiritual leader of the world's Roman Catholics said while vacations are "a privileged occasion for physical and spiritual renewal," sexual tourism is a deviation that can "devastate morally, psychologically and physically the life of so many persons and families, and sometimes whole communities."
In a statement posted on the Vatican's Web site, the pontiff went on to say the "evils of sex tourism must be dealt with urgently since they trample upon the rights of millions of men and women, especially the poor, minors and the handicapped."
He said "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, sadly often happens in the context of tourism."
The conference runs through through Friday in Cancun.
The humanitarian organization UNICEF estimates there are about 1.2 million child victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation annually, the Italian news service ANSA said.