More than 500 years ago, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa made a promise to the Virgin Mary: if his army won a battle, he would name the first Central American colony Santa Maria La Antigua. The name was a way to honor Our Lady who was venerated at Spains Sevilles Cathedral.
Now, Panama is celebrating 500 years since its first diocese was founded in the mainland of the American continent. Everything from religious ceremonies, processions and fireworks have been part of the celebration.
To mark the anniversary, Catholics carried the image of Our Lady throughout the country. It has been about a year now, since Pope Benedict XVI blessed that very image at St. Peter's Square last October.
The archbishop of Panama, José Domingo Ulloa, welcomed the image before taking it to the Cathedral.
MSGR. JOSE DOMINGO ULLOA
Archbishop of Panama
"The best gift is understanding that we are God's loved children. That Mary, our mother, has been at our side, and above all, understanding our commitment to become disciples and missionaries. To listen to Mary's voice, which says, 'Do as He commands, 'and spread His good word.”
The final part of the trip ended with this sea-side procession through Panama's bay, precisely to mark the arrival of the Spaniards 500 years ago.
Thousands of people flocked to the streets to join the image as it made its way to the Cathedral.
After the procession, came an impressive firework display.
The celebration ended in the early morning with a serenade to honor Our Lady, a rosary prayer and a Mass led by the country's bishops.In this way the diocese marked 500 years of Christianism in Panama, which changed the course of its history.