By John Waters
Archbishop Ulloa Mendieta heads the Diocese that is hosting the 2019 World Youth Day. In an interview with Massimiliano Menichetti he discussed his hopes for the Catholic Youth festival; he spoke of the young pilgrims’ expectations and described what sort of reception will be awaiting Pope Francis when he arrives in Panama on 23rd January.
The following is an English translation of the original interview.
Q: How did you prepare for this great meeting with the Pope and young people from all over the world?
R: Our preparation is supported, first of all, by prayer. For the past 2 years or so we have put this project into the hands of the Lord, setting the 22nd of each month as the World Youth Day of prayer. We chose the 22nd as it is the Feast of Saint John Paul II, who created World Youth Day. We’ve also had support from a very prestigious company that has helped us to prepare everything in a very methodical way, which allowed us to follow every step we took in the organization of the different directions of the organizing committee of World Youth Day.
Q: What type of Church will Pope Francis find?
A: He will find a Church that is young and joyous, authentic, multi-ethnic and pluri-cultural, with a living faith and a commitment to proclaim the Gospel. A Church which will not disappoint the faith which the Pope has placed in this small isthmus to organize a unique and historical event like World Youth Day. A Church which reaffirms the teaching of Pope Francis, to announce an outgoing Church and to reach out to those on the margins. A Church which dialogues with those who are “different but not distant,” who can sustain ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. A Church which serves everyone and excludes no one.
Q: You have said that it will be a World Youth Day which focuses on young people in search of Christ, without forgetting the questions of indigenous, native and migrant communities. How important are these areas?
A: World Youth Day is an opportunity to make the realities of youth visible, including those of migrants, the indigenous and the community of African origin. We cannot ignore these realities and neither must we remain inactive. I believe that the scenario of World Youth Day will help to focus on these realities and on how the Church in Central America can accompany them.
Q: What do you expect from this World Youth Day?
R: We hope to gather the largest numbers of young people from the Central American region, and the American continent. And for those who cannot be physically present, we have worked to guarantee that they may follow the event through different platforms of communication. In the end we want young people to become more restless in their search for answers to their existential questions, so that they can define their life projects.
Q: What are your hopes for the young people themselves who will attend World Youth Day?
R: That they be embraced by the merciful love of the Father, that they make the most of the catechesis and the worlds of the Pope, who comes to confirm their faith, to say that the Church and society needs them. And that they will have to courage to respond to God’s call, with their prayers.