From the 22nd to 27th January 2019, Panama became a place of encounter where thousands of young people from all over the world experienced the joy of faith and the love of God in a powerful way.
Archbishop of Panama City, Monsignor José Domingo Ulloa confirms this when he says:
“I have witnessed how World Youth Day can change someone’s life forever as it is a unique experience of encountering God. I have learned the joy with which young people live and the gift that World Youth Day has given me has been to discover the potential young people have”.
Mara Ethelgive from Nicaragua recounts: “I am really happy to have lived my first World Youth Day as a volunteer being an instrument of evangelization. This was an opportunity to meet Jesus and to change our lives forever.”
As part of activities for the event, Pope Francis visited Las Garzas de Pacora juvenile detention centre and heard the confessions of 12 young inmates, including one convicted of committing a double homicide at the age of 16 years; an expression of God’s mercy towards everyone.
The Pope also visited Hogar San José, a home run by the Missionaries of Charity of St. Teresa of Calcutta which picks up and takes in the sick and abandoned people from the streets of Panama. This was a symbolic gesture of being close to all those who, because of illness or disability, were unable to attend WYD events.
The whole message of the Holy Father was built on the Marian Theme, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38) and centred on the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model to young people, of a brave and generous response to God.
At the World Youth Day closing Mass at the Capital’s Metro Park on Sunday January 27, Pope Francis celebrated an open-air Holy Mass at the capital’s Metro Park to conclude the WYD.
He sent the young people off with these words:
“My thanks also go to all those who have supported us with their prayers, and who have helped by their efforts and hard work to make this World Youth Day dream come true in this country.
And to you, dear young people, a big “thank you”. Your faith and joy have made Panama, America and the entire world shake! As we have heard so many times in these days in the song of this World Youth Day: “As your pilgrim people we are gathered here today from every continent and city”. We are on a journey, keep walking, keep living the faith and sharing it. Do not forget that you are not the tomorrow, you are not the “meantime”; you are the now of God.I ask you not to let the fervour of these days grow cold. Go back to your parishes and communities, to your families and your friends, and share this experience, so that others can resonate with the strength and enthusiasm that is yours. With Mary, keep saying “yes” to the dream that God has sown in you.”
On Saturday 10 young participants of the World Youth Day from different countries had a private lunch with Pope Francis. Recounting their experience at the lunch they had with the Pope,
For BedwinTaitus from India, said: “the Pope is very humble, someone to look up to at any second of your life, and someone who reminds us of God’s love. He understand everyone’s pain even if it is a little pain, he understands it”.
Dennis Montano Galdamezwho is from Melbourne, Australia “Pope Francis is someone who really wants to get into the problems of young peoples’ lives, but also the problems of humanity’s struggle, against loneliness, corruption”. He is also “someone who is very gentle, very humble.”