Less than three months after the Bishops’ Youth Synod came to an end, thousands of young people have gathered in Panama for World Youth Day. Pope Francis arrives in Panama on Wednesday with the highlight of the celebrations being reached on Saturday after a prayer vigil.
The 34th World Youth Day will be celebrated in the Central American city of Panama, which is located between Costa Rica and Colombia. More than 200,000 young people from 155 different countries are expected to join the Pope for this celebration of faith which has become an annual date on the Church’s calendar. The attendance of European youth this year is not expected to be as high as in previous years. In fact, only a few Maltese went to Panama.
The Bishop’s delegate for youth people, Benjamin Flores Martin explained that this is exam period for many European students.
“It is more difficult to travel in January to a country like that, as you cannot just go for one week but generally you need at least two or three weeks, and to leave for Panama in the middle of your exams is rather difficult.”
The theme this year is taken from the Gospel of St Luke: “I am here as the servant of the Lord; thy will be done!” Mr Flores Martin said this theme continues on that of the Bishop’s Synod that young people need to share what God is asking them to do in their lives. The Bishop’s delegate said that the Church organises various activities to be closer to young people and for those from different parishes to meet one another.
“This year we will hold a seminar where young people will meet at Villa Bighi for an event which we are calling Boost. We will be listening to their experiences and help them to meet and speak to young people from different parishes.
The highlight of World Youth Day will be on Saturday with a prayer vigil with Pope Francis and a Sunday Mass. The Pope has also launched a new digital platform named “Click to Pray” which aims to inform people about what the Pope is praying for such as world peace or for those whose country has been hit by a natural disaster. “Click to Pray” is the official prayer platform for World Youth Day.