Pope Francis says Panama to be 'a hub of hope' during World Youth Day

20190122 Before of the Opening Ceremony of WYD Holy Mass Santa Maria La Antigua Field Daniel Ibanez 5 CNA Young pilgrims at World Youth Day Panama Opening Ceremony Jan. 23. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Upon arriving in Panama for World Youth Day 2019, Pope Francis met with politicians, diplomats and civil society leaders, extending a message of hope for "a more humane world."

"In these days, Panama … will turn into a hub of hope," Pope Francis told leaders gathered outside Panama City's Bolivar Palace Jan. 24.

"Young people demand a commitment in which all – beginning with those of us who call ourselves Christians – have the audacity to build an authentically human politics that makes the person the centre and heart of everything," he said.

In his first public appearance since his arrival in Panama, Pope Francis emphasized that "it is possible to defend the common good above the interests of a few or for few only when there is a firm decision to share with justice one's goods."

"The younger generation, with its joy and enthusiasm, with its freedom, sensitivity and critical capacity, demands that adults, and especially all those who exercise roles of leadership in public life, lead a life consonant with the dignity and authority that they possess and that has been entrusted to them," he said.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world are in Panama this week for World Youth Day, which will culminate with an overnight prayer vigil and Mass with Pope Francis Jan. 26-27.

Pope Saint John Paul II created World Youth Day in 1985 to harness the energy of young people and encourage them to participate in his call for the New Evangelization. This year marks the first time World Youth Day is hosted in Central America.

In his remarks to the Panamanian leadership, Pope Francis reflected upon Panama's "vocation" to be "a land of convocation and encounter."

"A bridge between oceans and a natural land of encounter, Panama, the narrowest country of the entire American continent, is the symbol of the sustainability born of the ability to create bonds and alliances," Francis commented.

"The genius of these lands is marked by the richness of its indigenous peoples: the bribri, bugle, emberá, kuna, nasoteribe, ngäbe and waunana, who have so much to relate and recall from their culture and vision of the world," he said.

He added: "To be a land of convocation means celebrating, acknowledging and listening to what is specific about each of these peoples and of all those men and women who make up the face of Panama and work to build a future of hope."

The pope quoted the Panamanian writer Ricardo Miró, who once wrote, "When they see you, my native land, they might say that you were shaped by God's will, so that beneath the sun shining down upon you, all humanity can come together in you."

"By welcoming the dreams of these young people, Panama becomes once more a land of dreams that challenges so many certainties of our time and opens up vital horizons that can enrich the path ahead through a respectful and compassionate gaze upon others," Pope Francis said.

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