By Robin Gomes
Preparations are underway for the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day (WYD) that takes centre stage in Panama City, January 22-27. Pope Francis is scheduled to join the celebrations January 23 onwards.
Addressing journalists at Tuesday’s press conference in Rome, Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa of Panama said that the WYD will be “a great celebration of faith." "We are waiting for the Pope and for the
Referring to the October Synod of Bishops in the Vatican on young people, he said that they will be urged to be protagonists of change to build a different world as Mary did with her unconditional “yes”.
The theme of the 34th WYD is, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38).
Archbishop Ulloa said that other themes that will dominate the youth meet will be migration, indigenous people, environment and the role of women.
World converging on Panama
Facts and figures of this great Church event were presented at a press conference in Rome on Tuesday. More than 200,000 participants from 155 countries are expected at the WYD. 47,000 have completed their application formalities and another 168,000 are completing them, said
243 are expected from China and 450 from Cuba. Muslims will also be in attendance, hailing from Jordan and Palestine.
More than 37,000 volunteers from Brazil, Costa Rica, France and Poland are involved in logistics, assistance and preparation.
Alluding to the Central American migrant caravan, Arch. Ulloa said the issue of immigration will be a dominant theme during the WYD because the Church cannot bear the suffering and pain that many people go through.
“Young people being forced to emigrate, many suffering at the hands of drug traffickers,” are just some of the challenges that many young people face, he said. “I am convinced that Pope Francis will be bringing the theme of hope,” he said, adding young people need opportunities.
The Panama WYD will also highlight the role of women in the Church. Archbishop Ulloa pointed out that one cannot conceive a Church, especially that of Latin America and Central America, that is not kept together by women.
To stress this fact, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be displayed at the global youth event. “For us, the emphasis will be on the role of women,” Arch. Ulloa said, explaining that the WYD will be a “great opportunity to bring forward all the good that women have done through history.”
Among the participants will also be some 1000 young indigenous people from various parts of the world who will be participating in the World Indigenous Youth Gathering 2019 (EMJI) that will take place in Soloy, Panama, January 17 to 21.
Models for youth
The archbishop pointed out that the Central American Church is one of martyrdom, and the young people have credible models in saints such as Romero, Rose of Lima, José Sánchez del Rio and John Paul II. He confirmed that the Pope will meet all the bishops to feel their pulse.
Arch. Ulloa said the Church of Panama is reaching out to young people who have no financial means to join the WYD. Many families will host pilgrims "precisely because the key is to share", he stressed.
At the end of the meeting, the organizers provided a sample of Panamanian hospitality by way of a traditional song and dance (watch