From the call not to be scared to be a saint in the modern world the 34th World Youth Day began in Panama. A Holy Mass on the Costa Cintera – boulevard on the shores of the Pacific Ocean – was celebrated on January 22nd by the Archbishop of Panama, José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta.
According to the local organizing committee of WYD, about 75 thousand young Catholics from around the world attended the Mass. The Mass was concelebrated by cardinals from Central America, including José Luis Lacunza Maestróján from Panama, Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga from Honduras and Leopoldo José Brenes Solarzano from El Salvador, as well as cardinals, bishops, and priests from all over the world, accompanying young people from their countries.
Also, the President of Panama Juan Carlos Varela and his wife, Lorena Castillo de Varela, as well as members of the government including the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo attended the Mass. The Mass began with almost half an hour delay, as its participants continued to arrive at the place of the celebration.
In the homily, Archbishop Ulloa remarked that Panama with great joy and with open arms and hearts accepts all pilgrims who came to this small country to meet Jesus Christ – the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
He stressed that this is where the Gospel spread throughout the American continent, always under Mary’s maternal protection, “The Star of Evangelization”, which during this WYD is proposed as a model of courage in fulfilling God’s plans, and whose words: “Here I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your word” is the motto of this meeting.
The Archbishop of Panama thanked Pope Francis for convening WYD for young people from the “existential and geographical peripheries”. He expressed hope that they would be a “balm for difficult situations in which many of them live without hope”, especially for indigenous and African descendants, for young migrants, left alone in their countries of origin and thus at risk of falling into drug trafficking, human trafficking, violence, etc.
The Archbishop assured that thanks to pilgrims from so many countries it became the “capital of the youth of the world”. He encouraged them, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to commit themselves to making a “revolution of love”, which is “not easy, but possible if we trust in God”.
Archbishop Ulloa pointed out that the meeting of the young with Jesus Christ should lead them to confront the indoctrination of anti-values, which promise false, fleeting happiness, ultimately leading to emptiness in life.
He admitted that the Church is not always able to proclaim Christ clearly enough. It happens that adults think that the young do not want to listen to it, they are deaf to it, but in reality, it is different – but to listen, they need to be accompanied. It is not easy to impress them. Cliches, theatrical speeches and slogans that will ignite emotions are not enough. – We know that, as in the time of Jesus, young people look for witnesses, reference points, full of content and experience, who walked on foot many kilometers (…). You are looking for those who show God through their lives, not those who talk about Him “said the preacher.
He stressed that the church is waiting for the “spring of youth”. – We trust you, we expect a lot from you, because we are fully convinced that making changes and transformations required by humanity and the Church are in your hands, in your abilities, in your vision of a better world – said The Archbishop of Panama.
You have to prepare for this great challenge. The Archbishop proposed a “trustworthy model” that is Mary and encouraged to imitate her trust in the plan for God. As a formation tool he proposed DOCAT – a compendium of social teaching of the Church, helpful in carrying out the “revolution of love and justice”. He announced that the youth from Central America will receive DOCAT in the form of a book or application as a gift from Pope Francis.
At the end he reminded the papal apostolic exhortation “Gaudete et exsultate” about sanctity. – We can all be saints; also, when we think that our life is of no great value to others because of so many sins committed – said the preacher.
He added after Pope Francis that in order to be a saint, one must go against the current, one must be able to cry, abandon the logic of closing eyes to somebody’s suffering. To be a saint is to give up spiritual and material corruption, everything that does evil and offends God. – Saints defend the defenseless: the unborn, but also born in misery; defend migrants, strive for justice; saints pray, live and love in community; they are cheerful and have a sense of humor; they always fight, give up mediocrity, live God’s mercy and share it with their fellows – listed the Archbishop.
The Archbishop added that sanctity is not a myth, but a tangible reality. This is evidenced by Saint patrons of the WYD in Panama: Marcin de Porras, Rosa of Lima, Jan Diego, Joseph Sánchez del Río, John Bosco, Sr Maria Romero Menses, John Paul II, “and above all Oscar Romero.” – They all show that it is possible to live in holiness in all cultures and nations, regardless of sex and age. The generous dedication of one’s life to God and to others led them to sanctity, Archbishop Ulloa pointed out.
Archbishop Ulloa encouraged them not to be afraid, but to have the courage to be saints in today’s world without giving up their youth and joy. – On the contrary, show the world that you can be happy with little, because Jesus Christ, the reason for our happiness, has already acquired eternal life for us with his resurrection – emphasized Archbishop of Panama.
The homily was enthusiastically received by the gathered youth, who began to chant the call known from the papal foreign travels since the time of Saint. John Paul II: “Esta es la juventud del papa!” (This is the Pope’s youth).
The prayers of the faithful, through the intercession of Our Lady, the Patron of Panama, were spoken in several languages: English, French, Polish, Spanish, Chinese and Portuguese. One of the intentions was read in Polish, because pilgrims from our country are the largest national group from Europe. It read: “We pray that Christian families may live faithfully with responsibility and joy, generously accepting the priestly or consecrated vocation of their children as a blessing from God.”
The sacrificial gifts before the altar were brought by people dressed in traditional costumes from this region of the world. During the Mass an enormous choir sang joyful songs inclined to rhythmical clapping and rocking to the rhythm of Hispanic melodies.
Before the final blessing, Archbishop Ulloa once again thanked all pilgrims for coming to Panama, especially those who had to overcome many obstacles. He wished that from this WYD, no poor and little ones would be afraid to dream about great things and implement them. “Let it be a great gift that these Central American World Youth Days will give us,” said the Archbishop, appealing to all not to let anyone kill their dreams.
– A new world and a new church are possible; and, this change comes from you, “repeated the Archbishop of Panama amid the applause and exclamations of the gathered youth. He explained that this change can be made by meeting Jesus, Mary’s hands, together with Pope Francis, who “will come to confirm the faith of each one of us.”
The liturgy lasted almost an hour and a half. Among the countless flags fluttering above the crowd of youth, the white and red were also clearly visible.
Before the Mass and after its completion, Christian Music concerts lasted at Cinta Costera.