Pope Francis arrived in Panama on Wednesday afternoon, 23 January 2019 for the historic visit in this country and to meet the youth from all over the world moved by faith, participating in the 34th World Youth Day (WYD). Upon arrival at the Tocumen International Airport, he was met by the President of the Republic Juan Carlos Varela and the first lady Lorena Castillo, as a protocol among head of states. Some of the students of Claret School of Panama of the RMIs were chosen to meet and greet the Pope at the airport. The Holy Father then headed to the Nuntiature passing through a long queue of crowd of pilgrims and locals who were waiting to see a Pope for the very first time in their life.
Then on a very hot afternoon of the following day, 24 January 2019, the Official Opening of the 34th WYD took place at the 2.5km-long Coastal Beltway, called the Cinta Costera, fronting the Pacific Ocean and the skyscrapers at the back. The Claretian Family scattered along the said coastline were among those who heard the Pope’s address to the young people and to the world.
“Peter and the Church walk with you”, the Pope started. “We want to tell you not to be afraid, go forward with the same fresh energy and restlessness that helps make us happier and more available…not to create a parallel Church that would be more “fun” and “cool” brought by this fancy youth event”.
The Pope acknowledged the sacrifices faced by many of the young people in coming to Panama and reminded them that a disciple is not merely someone who arrives at a certain place, but “someone who sets out decisively, who is not afraid to take risks and keeps walking.” Francis insisted that everyone must “keep on walking.” He reminded the youth of the “culture of encounter”, an invitation to dare to keep alive a shared dream, a dream that has a place for each one, a dream called Jesus.
Each of our peoples has had a different history and lived through different situations. We are different in so many ways! But none of it has stopped us from meeting one another, these many differences could not prevent us from meeting up and being together, from having a good time together, from celebrating together, from professing Jesus Christ together. No difference prevented us. The reason for this, we know, is that Someone unites us, is a brother to us. You, dear friends, have made many sacrifices to be able to meet one another and in this way you have become true teachers and builders of the culture of encounter.
He also quoted St. Oscar Romero: “Christianity is not a collection of truths to believe in, or of rules to be followed, or of prohibitions. Christianity means pursuing the dream for which Jesus gave His life for: loving with the same love with which he loved all of us”.
“The Love of the Lord is a love that does not overwhelm or oppress, that cast aside or reduce to silence, humiliate or domineer. It is a daily, discreet and respectful love, one that is free and freeing, a love that heals and raises up. It is the quiet love of a hand outstretched to serve, a commitment that draws no attention to itself. It is a love that makes sense,” Pope Francis said.
I ask you: Do you believe in this love? [They answer: “Yes!”] Let me ask another question: Is it a love that makes sense? One time, Jesus answered a person who asked a question by saying: “If you believe this, go and do the same”. In the name of Jesus, I say to you: “Go and do the same”. Do not be afraid to love, do not be afraid of this concrete love, of this love which is tender, which is service, which gives life.
Dear young friends, the most hope-filled result of this Day will not be a final document, a joint letter or a programme to be carried out. The most hope-filled result of this meeting will be your faces and a prayer. This will give hope: the face with which you return home, the changed heart with which you return home, the prayer you have learned to offer from this changed heart. What will give hope from this encounter will be your faces and your prayer. Each of you will return home with the new strength born of every encounter with others and with the Lord. You will return home filled with the Holy Spirit, so that you can cherish and keep alive the dream that makes us brothers and sisters, and that we must not let grow cold in the heart of our world. Wherever we may be and whatever we may do, we can always look up and say, “Lord, teach me to love as you have loved us”.
Pope Francis concluded in asking everyone to repeat with him the phrase: “Lord, teach me to love you as you have loved us.”