"Some Vietnamese from France, one from Australia, and myself, from Vietnam," he said.
Anthony Diep, a Vietnamese seminarian who now lives in Australia, just finished his pastoral year and has about two years remaining before becoming a priest. He said he faced many challenges to his faith when he lived in Vietnam, including occasional harassment by the police.
"Today, a lot of people have inspired me greatly because they share in the experience of encountering Christ, so that inspires me," Diep told CNA.
The event included addresses from several U.S. bishops, including Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas and Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport. In his speech Caggiano did not shy away from speaking about the sexual abuse crisis and a need for reform for the Church, telling young people that they will be the ones responsible for helping to purify the Church going forward.
"I think it's a twofold message: first to be encouraged in their own pursuit of holiness, that the families of those around them should not deter them from asking what He wants me to do," Caggiano told CNA after the event.
"And the second is to be encouraged by all these young people that feel the same way...The Church needs to be in some ways purified and renewed, but they are going to be at the front lines of doing that. They just need to be mentored and guided. And that's what we're here to do."
"What I'm hoping is that this will be a celebration of joy," the bishop said.
"Joy is that sense that God will take care of us even when we're troubled, even when we're tempted to be discouraged and even to despair. We can't do that; that's not an option for a believer...My pilgrims, they leave school, they sacrifice to come here- this is not a nonchalant decision, it really takes a lot of effort and a lot of commitment. So my hope is that they realize that if they can do this small thing, then they can do a big thing, which is to accept the invitation to live a real life of holiness."
Sister Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life told CNA that the conversations she's had with young people so far have been very encouraging.
"The conversations I've had so far have been so beautiful, because the young people from every country that I've encountered – Malaysia, Uruguay, here in Panama itself, and also in the United States, Australia – the ends of the earth are coming," she said.
She said she recently fielded questions from two young female pilgrims who were asking for advice on how to make a good confession: "These questions of the heart of: Who am I? Who is the Lord? How do I go deeper in my relationship with Him?"
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
She said for those youth who were not able to attend World Youth Day, they can still pray to unite their heart to the graces being poured out in Panama.
"I can trust that the grace to say yes, to persevere, will be there because [God is] faithful," she said.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston was also in attendance. He told CNA that in his experience, World Youth Day is a great source of vocations for the Church.
"Something like 40 percent of our seminarians in the United States were 'made' in World Youth Day," he said.
"That just speaks volumes on the spiritual impact that this experience has on people's lives."
He also noted that many of the young people at this World Youth Day may not have been able to come had it not been held in Panama.