World Youth Day 2019 opened Jan. 22 in Panama City, Panama. Over 150,000 have registered for the event which ran until Jan. 27. Usually held in the summer, this year's event was held during the cool season of Panama, which conflicted with the American school year. As a result, the Diocese of Buffalo has not planned a pilgrimage to the Central American city.
World Youth Day began after St. John Paul II conducted two successful international gatherings with young people in Rome in 1984 and 1985. The event is celebrated annually on the diocesan level, with international celebrations taking place every two to three years. Through pilgrimage, catechesis sessions and meeting others from the global Church, young Catholics broaden their spiritual lives.
Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, OSA, of Panama, welcomed the pilgrims during the opening ceremonies.
"Our joy is immense in the presence of all of you," he said. "Panama today receives you with open hearts and arms. Thank you for accepting the call to meet us in this small country, in which faith came from the hand of the Virgin Mary, under the invocation of Santa Maria la Antigua. A country that has done its best so that each of you has an encounter with Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
"We are the first diocese of the new world, and from here the gospel was spread to the rest of the American continent, always under the protection of the Virgin Mary, the Mother. She has always accompanied us, so it is not strange that in this encounter with Jesus Christ - in this World Youth Day - it is Mary who has encouraged us and will continue to encourage us during the celebration of this historic event, which we will all live together: the youth of world.
"We thank God for hosting the first World Youth Day where Mary - 'the star of evangelization' - has been proposed to you as a model of courage and courage, who was available to fulfill God's plan, for the one who had chosen her and whose response is the motto of this WYD: 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.'
"Thank you, Pope Francis, for trusting us and giving us the opportunity to make a WYD for the youth of the existential and geographical peripheries. We hope that it will be a balm for the difficult situation with which many of them live without hope, especially the indigenous and Afro-descendant youth, the youth who migrate due to the almost null response of their countries of origin, which throw them to pin their hopes on other countries, exposing them to drug trafficking, human trafficking, crime, and many other social ills."
The theme for the 34th World Youth Day is, "I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word," (Lk 1:38).