The 34th World Youth Day was held in Panama City from January 22 to 27, with the participation of around five hundred thousand young people from the 5 continents, from more than 150 countries.
The founder and the first promoter of WYD was Saint John Paul II. The objective of these Days is to favor a personal encounter with Christ, which changes life and in this way promotes peace, unity and fraternity among the peoples and nations of the world, having the youth as ambassador. It is also a way of developing new evangelization processes for young people.
Pope Francis, in his opening speech, questioned the youth, ”What keeps us united? Why are we united? What prompts us to encounter each other?” He responded that it is “The certainty of knowing that we have been loved with a profound love that we neither can nor want to keep quiet about. A love that challenges us to respond in the same way: with love. It is the love of Christ that urges us on (cf. 2 Cor 5:14).”
He also acknowledged the difficulty many young men and women faced in making the journey to Panama. Pope Francis said it mirrored the life of a disciple who “is not merely someone who arrives at a certain place, but one who sets out decisively, who is not afraid to take risks and keeps walking.” We can follow the example of the Virgen Mary, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.”
The patron saints, presented as concrete examples in this years World Youth Day are: Saint José Sánchez del Rio, Saint Juan Diego, Blessed Sor María Romero Meneses, Saint John Bosco, Saint John Paul II, St. Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Saint Martin de Porres, Saint Rose of Lima.
On Friday, Pope Francis celebrated a special penitential Mass inside the Las Garzas de Pacora detention center, which is Panama’s main youth lockup and also heard the inmates’ confessions inside confessionals the detainees made themselves.
The Religious Family of the Institute of the Incarnate Word also had a presence in Panama. Groups went from Suriname, the United States, Ecuador, Luxembourg, Brazil, Argentina, Iceland, etc. The young people had the opportunity to meet other members of the Religious Family.
We pray for the fruits of this World Youth Day and we entrust all youth under the protection of the mantle of Our Lady.