updated 9/27/2007 11:21:16 AM ET 2007-09-27T15:21:16

The Vatican on Thursday lamented the lack of women in leadership positions in the tourism industry and called for equal work and pay for women in the sector.

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The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, also denounced sexual tourism as an “intolerable scandal” that he said made women into slaves.

Bertone, the Vatican’s No. 2 official, made the comments in a letter marking World Tourism Day to the World Tourism Organization, whose theme this year is how tourism can “open doors” for women.

Bertone, who recently pledged to put more women into ranking Vatican positions, noted that many tourists would remember the women who worked for them during their travels: travel agents, flight attendants, tour guides, waitresses and hotel maids.

“One must unfortunately recognize that notwithstanding this massive feminine presence, in many cases vertical segregation persists in the leadership and managerial responsibilities of the tourism industry,” he said.

The cause, he said, was “strong prejudices” that make stereotypes against women persist.

He called for governments, tour companies, agencies and organizations like the World Tourism Organization to dedicate money and other resources to protect women’s rights and allow them to advance professionally.

“One must work for an effective equality in the rights of women, guaranteeing them parity in work ... and the corresponding equal salary,” he wrote.

No woman heads a major Vatican office, which to date have been reserved for cardinals and bishops.

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