Panama City, Panama, Jan 25, 2019 / 13:43 pm America/Denver (CNA).
Pilgrims from 150 countries are in Panama this week for World Youth Day, including 400 from Venezuela, who are urging their fellow pilgrims to pray for their country amid escalating unrest and political upheaval.
Pope Francis spoke to approximately 315,000 thousand young people Jan. 24 at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day at Campo Santa Maria la Antigua in Panama City, encouraging them to be united by their common love of Christ.
Hours before the pope’s arrival, thousands of enthusiastic pilgrims, most of them Latin American, crammed close to the main stage in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the Holy Father as he exited his vehicle. Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Panama were all represented with large groups, while smaller groups from Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador were also present.
Before the opening ceremony, a large group of pilgrims close to the main stage unfurled a nearly 200-foot banner bearing the words “#PrayforVenezuela.”
Robert Araujo, 27, a pilgrim from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, said this is the first time he has been able to attend World Youth Day after trying for ten years. He said the banner, which was made by a group of Venezuelan expats now living in Panama, is a gesture of solidarity and a testament to the pilgrims’ trust in the power of prayer.