Left: Sr. Catarina Osorio Ixcoteyac takes a selfie with youth attending the 2019 World Youth Day, an international Jubilee celebrating youth in the Church. This year’s event took place in Panama. Right: Sr. Betty Campos Arias along with youth attending the 2019 World Youth Day, the Church’s international Jubilee of youth, in Panama.

By Sister Betty Campos Arias

Sr. Catarina Osorio Ixcoteyac and I had the fantastic opportunity of experiencing the 2019 World Youth Day in Panama. We traveled on the 20th day of January and took the opportunity to go and visit the Panama Canal and learn about its history. Over there, we met with young people from all over the world, from countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Asia, and different parts of Africa. On January 22, the Festival began with the Opening Mass before the arrival of the Pope. The ceremony was entirely intercultural.

The Scripture Readings were in English, Italian, and Spanish. There were young people from more than 140 different countries. The Mass was presided over by the Archbishop of Panama, Monsignor Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, who encouraged the youth to continue with their Revolution of Love, fight for unity in diversity, avoid false happiness that fades away soon; he also urged them to look for witnesses of devotion and testimony of life. He stated that sincere change was in the hands of young people and that it was necessary for each one of them to be aware of their faith, their history, their culture, their devotion and following the example of Mary. He mentioned that one of the means to achieve real change was learning about the Church’s Social Teachings, and use these as their guides.

After this, the Opening Ceremony with the Pope began with the icons of the Saints who would accompany us throughout the day: Saint Juan Bosco, Saint Óscar Romero, Blessed Maria Romero Meneses, Saint John Paul II, Saint Joselito, Saint Juan Diego, Saint Rosa de Lima, and Saint Martin de Porres. During the whole event, we had our Blessed Mother Mary as a model of “Let it be done to me, according to your word.” 

Once the Welcoming Ceremony was over, the Pope gave his first speech with unique grace. He said that the disciple is not merely the one who arrives at a certain place, but the one who keeps walking. Beginning to walk is the greatest joy of the disciple and to keep journeying. He said that the Celebration with Jesus began long ago and went beyond race, language, country, and ethnic diversity. He then said that young people are leaders of the culture of encounter and that our differences could not prevent us from meeting up and being together. Jesus is the greatest creator, the one who teaches us to walk together with our differences.

He stressed that “True love does not eliminate legitimate differences, but harmonizes them into a superior unity” (Pope Benedict). The Pope insisted that we should build bridges, not walls. What keeps us united is the certainty that we are loved profoundly and that this love is challenging us to respond in love. 

The most hope-filled result of this meeting, said the Pope, is a changed heart. Our commitment to prayer filled with a new strength born of every encounter with others and with the Lord, keeps alive the dream that makes us brothers and sisters. 

In one of his last speeches, the Pope said to take Mary as an example, and using the terms of the youth, he said that Mary was the first “influencer.” She, without asking, became the most influential woman in history, and in the life of Jesus. The ‘influencer’ of God. Today, we have to let God renew something in our hearts. What do I want God to renew in my heart? Mary was determined; she knew what that was about, and she said “Yes” to God’s promise, and her willingness to serve was much stronger than the struggles. The world belongs not only to the strong, said the Pope. Saying “Yes” to the Lord is to embrace life as it comes, with its weaknesses and little things.

In one of his last speeches, the Pope invited the adults, the people who in some way influence the young, to help them find their roots. And, also to pay attention to them, provide them with opportunities, options and support. Listen to them and understand them in their time of crisis, especially those who are most lost and feel hopeless. He urged them to give hope to those without a sense of purpose in life and roots.

The Pope’s invitation was to offer roots: build a future, provide accompaniments, options, listening, understanding, embracing, and accepting them as they are. “The tree always keeps hope,” he said; although every year the tree losses its leaves, at the end they grow back. In general, each speech of the Pope was profound and had a message of hope for the young people.

All that I can say is, “Thank you, Pope Francis! Thank you for your Testimony of Life, and for fulfilling the Mission of Jesus here and now.”

Praised be the Incarnate Word.

Forever, Amen.

For more information about the Pope’s Visit to Panama, visit the following links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmrqDrpvGtg

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-01/pope-francis-panama-wyd-20193.html

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-01/pope-francis-panama-wyd-2019-authorities-civil-society-diplomats.html

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-01/pope-francis-panama-wyd-2019-photo-gallery.html

Left: Sr. Betty Campos Arias at the 2019 World Youth Day, the Church’s international Jubilee of youth, in Panama. Right: Sr. Catarina Osorio Ixcoteyac with youth attending the 2019 World Youth Day, the Church’s international Jubilee of youth, in Panama.

Left: Pope Francis joins President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez and First Lady Lorena Castillo at the 2019 World Youth Day in Panama. Right: Pope Francis and Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, wave to the crowd from the popemobile during 2019 World Youth Day in Panama.

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