Posted On 26. January 2019 In WYD Panama 2019

An enthusiastic welcome for Francis at the airport, on the streets and in hearts

WYD2019, Maria Fischer •

Hours before the Pope’s arrival, a large delegation of Cuban youths was already waiting near the Nunciature. They had a picture of the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt with them; the Costa Rican Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign gifted it to them. Like them on January 23rd, thousands of young people and Panamanian citizens filled the streets to greet Pope Francis arriving at the first World Youth Day in Central America, the first World Youth Day with a Marian motto. —

Fr. Jorge Rubido with Cuban youths. Four of them sealed their Covenant of Love on 22 January.

Pope Francis arrived at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama at 4:16 pm local time (10:16 pm Rome time) after an almost 13-hour flight, where the faithful waited for him in their 2,500 reserved spaces.

It was a long wait until the door of the plane opened. At last, at 4:34 pm Pope Francis descended, and the president of the Republic of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela and his wife, Mrs. Lorena Castillo, welcomed him. From the San José de Malambo Orphanage, two Panamanian children wearing traditional costumes offered Pope Francis flowers as a sign of welcome, while a group of young people added color to the ceremony with the presentation of native dances. With simplicity and spontaneity, Pope Francis set aside protocol and made time to greet many of the participants and to bless some children.

Bless the Blessed Mother

At the end of the ceremony, the Pope along with Bishop Ulloa entered a car (with open windows despite the heat so he could greet people) that took him to specific location, where the Popemobile was waiting to take him to the Apostolic Nunciature – contrary to the plan, the Pope stayed in the Popemobile rather than transferring to a closed car, so he could better greet people.

A group of Schoenstatt youths found the optimal spot, and waited there with the Boys’ Youth’s crowned Pilgrim Mother. Using a large poster, they asked the Pope to bless the Blessed Mother.

Concrete solidarity

On the first day of Pope Francis’ visit to Panama, there was a moment that remained immortalized in the hearts of millions of people: it was the moment when Francis blessed a young man the faithful raised up above the crowd in his wheelchair.  Three friends of the wheelchair bound, young man, took him into the street, so the Pope could see him… he saw him and blessed him.

Concrete solidarity of three friends. A challenging beginning to this World Youth Day.


What prompts us to encounter each other at this WYD? The certainty of knowing that we have been loved with a profound love that we neither can nor want to keep quiet about —a love that challenges us to respond in the same way: with love.#Panama2019

Tweet by Pope Francis, 23.01.2019


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