By John Waters
The Catholic Bishops of Panama have concluded their annual Ordinary plenary meeting and have released a statement summarizing the topics they discussed.
Beginning with a reflection on the recent World Youth Day held in Panama, January 22-27, the Bishops congratulated all of Panama on the great success of the event.
“The thousands of pilgrims who visited us during World Youth Day were impressed by our fraternal embrace, our solidarity and by the ability to organize a unique event such as the World Youth Day. Thank you Panamanian people, because nothing would have been possible without the commitment each. With the simplicity that characterizes us, we show the world our roots, the joy of faith, the values of fraternity and solidarity.” The Bishops went on to renew their commitment to keeping young people engaged at all levels of the church. In particular, they promise to continue arranging for places of encounter with the young people from indigenous communities.
The statement also renews the Catholic church in Panama’s commitment to the protection of minors and vulnerable people from all forms of abuse.
“We have already taken a firm step with the publication of the document "Protecting Our Treasure ", which is the protocol for handling cases of abuse, approved by the Holy See, for the entire Catholic Church in Panama. We will work to achieve the right balance to avoid the two extremes of a justicialism, provoked by the sense of guilt for past mistakes and the pressure from the media world; and of a self-defense of the Church that does not face the causes and consequences of these serious crimes.”
Justicialism refers to a journalistic practice of demanding harsh and rapid justice, particularly in the case of economic or political crimes.
Building upon the efforts made before World Youth Day to highlight the plight of refugees and immigrants, the Bishops of Panama recommit themselves to aiding those who come to start new lives in the country.
“These brothers coming from countries at war, with high levels of poverty and exclusion, or under undemocratic political systems, they flee because they have already lost everything except the hope of finding a better future… The Church has the Christian commitment to welcome and protect the migrant, we cannot be indifferent.”
With Panama’s elections due to be help on 5th May, the statement also includes a call for greater political involvement from all citizens of the country. Quoting from Pope Francis’ address at the Bolivar Palace when he visited Panama, the statement says “no Catholic can be indifferent to politics. It is not enough to complain and regret the vices of politicians and the distortions of politics. It is urgent to assume our social responsibility towards our neighbor, the excluded and impoverished, which is a specific task of the laity. "Is impossible to think about the future of a society without active participation - and not only nominal- of each of its members, in such a way that dignity is seen recognized and guaranteed in access to quality education and in the promotion of worthy jobs.”