Pope Francis arrived early for Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary the Ancient in the Old Town of Panama. He took this extra time as an opportunity to greet the pilgrims who waited for him, courageously enduring the intense heat.
The Cathedral of St. Mary the Ancient has gradually been restored , through the years, to its original splendor and even improved.
Upon entering the Cathedral, the pope prayed for a few moments before the image of St. Mary the Ancient, patron of Panama. He placed this silver rose on to the image as a symbol of love and devotion to the Blessed Mother.
Pope Francis especially addressed his homily to priests, religious men and women. First of all, he warned them of the temptation of losing hope.
“It is a weariness that paralyzes. It comes from looking ahead and not knowing how to react to the intense and confusing changes that we as a society are experiencing. ” “Brothers and sisters, the weariness of hope comes from seeing a Church wounded by sin, which so often failed to hear all those cries that echoed the cry of the Master: 'My God, why have you forsaken me?'”
Pope Francis invited everyone to quench their thirst, like the Samaritan woman from the Gospel, with water from the well where authentic life springs.
“To be able to say 'give me a drink' means retracing our steps and, in creative fidelity, listening to how the Spirit inspired no specific works, pastoral plans or structures, but instead, through any number of 'saints next door' – including the founders of your institutes and the bishops and priests who laid the bases for your communities – He gave life and fresh breath to a particular moment of history when all hope and dignity seemed to be stifled and crushed.”
The pope ended his homily by referring to this cathedral in Panama. His words brought a message of unity.
“A Spanish, Indian and Afro-American cathedral thus becomes a Panamanian cathedral, belonging both to past generations and to those of today who made it possible. It no longer belongs only to the past... It no longer belongs only to the past but it is a thing of beauty for the present.”
Pope Francis then consecrated the altar. He placed relics of four saints inside the altar. Three Latin Americans - St. Rose of Lima, St. Oscar Romero and St. Martin de Porres - and one polish saint, John Paul II. Afterwards, he anointed the altar with chrism oil.
Before concluding the ceremony, the Archbishop of Panama, José Domingo Ulloa thanked the pope and assured him of the support as well as prayers from the entire Panamanian Church.