Paul VI Hall
Wednesday, 30 January 2019
Apostolic Journey to Panama
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today I will dwell with you on the Apostolic Journey that I made in recent days in Panama. I invite you to give thanks to me to the Lord for this grace that He wanted to give to the Church and to the people of that beloved country. I thank the President of Panama and the other Authorities, the Bishops; and I thank all the volunteers - there were so many - for their warm and family welcome, the same that we saw in people who everywhere rushed to greet with great faith and enthusiasm. One thing that struck me so much: people raised their arms with their children. When the Popemobile passed everyone with the children: they raised them as saying: "Behold my pride, here is my future!". And they showed the children. But they were so many! And the fathers or mothers are proud of that child. I thought: how much dignity in this gesture, and how much is eloquent for the demographic winter we are living in Europe! The pride of that family is the children. The safety for the future is children. The demographic winter, without children, is hard!
The reason for this trip was the World Youth Day, but the meetings with young people have intertwined with the reality of the country: the Authorities, the Bishops, young prisoners, consecrated persons and a family home. Everything has been like "infected" and "amalgamated" by the joyful presence of the young: a party for them and a party for Panama, and also for all of Central America, marked by so many dramas and in need of hope and peace, and pure of justice.
This World Youth Day was preceded by the meeting of young people from native and African-American peoples. A nice gesture: they made five days of meeting, young indigenous people and young descendants. They are many in that region. They opened the door to World Day. And this is an important initiative that has shown even better the multifaceted face of the Church in Latin America: Latin America is mixed. Then, with the arrival of groups from all over the world, the great symphony of faces and languages was formed, typical of this event. Seeing all the flags parade together, dancing in the hands of the joyful young people to meet is a prophetic sign, a mark against the current trend of today's conflicting nationalisms, which raise walls and close to universality, to the encounter between peoples. It is a sign that young Christians are leaven in peace in the world.
This WYD had a strong Marian imprint, because its theme was the words of the Virgin to the Angel: "Behold the servant of the Lord; let it come to me according to your word "(Lk 1:38). It was strong to hear these words spoken by the representatives of the youths of the five continents, and above all to see them show on their faces. As long as there are new generations able to say "here I am" to God, there will be a future in the world.
Between the stages of the WYD there is always the Way of the Cross. Walking with Mary behind Jesus carrying the cross is the school of Christian life: there you learn patient, silent, concrete love. I make you a confidence: I really like to do the Way of the Cross, because it is to go with Mary behind Jesus. And always carry with me, to do it at any time, a pocket-sized Way of the Cross, which gave me a very apostolic person in Buenos Aires. And when I have time I take and follow the Way of the Cross. Take the Way of the Cross too, because it is to follow Jesus with Mary on the path of the cross, where He gave his life for us, for our redemption. In the Way of the Cross one learns patient, silent and concrete love. In Panama, young people brought with Jesus and Mary the burden of the condition of so many suffering brothers and sisters in Central America and in the whole world. Among these there are many young victims of different forms of slavery and poverty. And in this sense, the penitential liturgy that I celebrated in a Rehabilitation home for minors and the visit to the "Buon Samaritano" Family Home, which houses people living with HIV / AIDS, were very significant moments.
The culmination of the WYD and the journey were the Vigil and Mass with the young. In the Vigil - in that camp full of young people who did the Vigil, they slept there and at 8 am they participated in the Mass - in the Vigil the living dialogue was renewed with all the boys and girls, enthusiastic and even capable of silence and listening. They passed from enthusiasm to listening and silent prayer. To them I proposed Mary as the one who, in her smallness, more than any other, has "influenced" the history of the world: we have called it the "influencer of God". In his "fiat" the beautiful and strong testimonies of some young people have been reflected. On Sunday morning, in the great final Eucharistic celebration, the Risen Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit, spoke again to the young people of the world calling them to live the Gospel in today, because young people are not "tomorrow"; no, I am the "today" for the "tomorrow". They are not "in the meantime", but they are today, now, of the Church and of the world. And I have appealed to the responsibility of adults, so that new generations do not lack education, work, community and family. And this is the key right now in the world, because these things are missing. Education, that is, education. Work: how many young people are without. Community: feel welcomed, in the family, in society.
The meeting with all the Bishops of Central America was for me a moment of special consolation. Together we let ourselves be taught by the testimony of the holy bishop Oscar Romero, to better learn how to "feel with the Church" - it was his episcopal motto -, in the proximity of the young, the poor, the priests, the holy faithful people of God.
And a strong symbolic value has had the consecration of the altar of the restored Cathedral of Santa Maria La Antigua, in Panama. It has been closed for seven years for the restoration. A sign of rediscovered beauty, for the glory of God and for the faith and the feast of his people. The Chrism which consecrates the altar is the same as anointing the baptized, confirmed, priests and bishops. May the family of the Church, in Panama and in the whole world, draw from the Holy Spirit ever new fruitfulness, so that the pilgrimage of the young missionary disciples of Jesus Christ may continue and spread on the earth.
I extend a cordial welcome to Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I am pleased to welcome the Nuns of the Passion of Jesus Christ (Passionists), on the occasion of their General Chapter; the Religious of the "Talitha Kum" World Network; the Brothers of Charity and the Members of the Missio Christi Institute.
I greet the Families of the Traveling Show: it is certain that there is Sister Geneviève there !; the European Solidarity Volunteer Association; the "Salvadè for Africa" group and the school institutes, in particular that of Cisterna di Latina and Ginosa.
A special thought I address to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds.
Tomorrow we will celebrate the memory of St. John Bosco, father and teacher of the young: a good priest this! Don Bosco knew how to make God's embrace felt to all the young people he met, offering them hope, a home, a future. His testimony helps us all to consider how important it is to educate the new generations to authentic human and spiritual values.