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WYD 2019. Mons. Ulloa Mendieta: “The Pope in Central America is a breath of fresh air and of hope”

The archbishop of Panama discussed the expectations regarding Francis’ visit with SIR. “The Pope’s meeting with world youths in the furrows of this Region – Central America, the Caribbean and Venezuela – is a breath of fresh air and of hope.” Forced migration, crime, drug-trafficking. “Changes are initiated by the young. A brighter future is possible only if young people commit themselves to transforming this reality. But also the political leaders of the Region are invited to include an increasing number of young people into their projects. Far too many young people are forced to flee”

(from our correspondent in Panama) Deep gratitude to the Pope for having chosen to travel all the way to this “world periphery” to celebrate the World Youth Day. With these words the archbishop of Panama, Monsignor José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, described the feelings with which the Country is looking forward to the arrival of Pope Francis. These are very busy days; young people are flocking into the capital after the Days in the Dioceses. Posters, flags and pavillons welcoming Pope Francis blanket the city. The first conferences are taking place in the dedicated press room – a huge hall with workstations for 2 200 journalists from across the globe. The archbishop arrives smiling at the appointment with SIR, after having spent the entire morning making a security inspection in the Cinta Costera, the beautiful bay overlooking the Pacific Ocean where the main papal events with the young are scheduled to take place. “The prevailing feeling ahead of the arrival of the Holy Father”, the archbishop said, “is one of deep gratitude to God for the gift of being able to welcome Peter in this Central American Region. The Pope will be arriving to confirm us in the faith and to meet young people from world Countries. People are deeply grateful to the Pope for having placed God’s eyes upon this small Region, that is Central America and Panama.”
A small Region that faces countless problems. Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia are Countries where the peace and the life of thousands of people are subjected to considerable strain. Which words does Central America need?
The Pope’s meeting with world youths in the furrows of this Region – Central America, Caribe and Venezuela – is a breath of fresh air and of hope.

A glimpse of light to continue to dream and to experience a new reality.

We live in a Region afflicted by many problems: forced migration, young people that fall into the grips of criminals, victims of drug-trafficking. If these young people are often forced to leave their homeland it is because it is impossible for them to continue to live in their Country. Changes are initiated by the young. A brighter future is possible only if young people commit themselves to transform this reality. But also the political leaders of the Region are invited to include an increasing number of young people into their projects. Far too many young people are forced to flee.

Which words does Central America expect from Francis, the Pope that denounced “the throwaway culture”, the Latin American Pope?

We look forward to hearing words of hope from Pope Francis,

words that say that we should believe in the young, words that call upon the young to take on the responsibility to change this sad situation, words that encourage us to start anew from the care of our common home, from the poor, from the ability to see those discarded with a new gaze. But this will happen only if young people – like Mary –  will reply: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”, the official theme chosen for the Day.

How is the Pope preparing for the event?
I met him in person a month ago. The Pope has a deep yearning to visit this Region. He is aware that he will be coming here for the World Day but he is also conscious of the fact that this event is also a great opportunity for young people living in this world periphery. Youths living in this Region would never have imagined that one day they would be the protagonists of a World Youth Day. I believe that this is what motivated the Pope to visit Panama and I think he was also motivated by the awareness that

God can do great works in those who are small

What do you expect for your Church?
This Day is showing who we are as a Church. We are a Church where the lay faithful have always held positions of responsibility. I also wish to highlight the role of women inside our Church. The Panamanian Church cannot be known in full without taking into account the role of women.

This is the hour of the young, the hour of hope, the hour of women.

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