Pope Francis' best messages in Panama
In his first speech in the country, the pope asked the authorities to build a fair, honest government and a society in which all young people can find a job.
“The right to the future is also a human right.”
In his meeting with bishops from Central America, Pope Francis asked them to listen to the people, since they have much to learn from them. He remembered a very recent case.
"I saw her yesterday and again today. She was an old lady, like this, my age or even older, with a mitre. She had put on a mitre that she had made with cardboard and a sign that said: 'Holiness: grandmothers also make a mess.' Your people are marvelous.”
He talked about this woman who he had seen several times at WYD. She inspired him to explain that nobody should be excluded, not even the elderly.
"With your gestures and approach, with your way of looking at things, your desires and, especially, with your sensitivity, you deny and disprove all talk concentrated on and intending to sow division; those speeches that insist on excluding or rejecting those who 'are not like us.'"
At the WYD welcome ceremony, Pope Francis wanted to send a special message to the pope emeritus.
"We send a greeting from here. He is watching us on television. Hello! Everyone – wave with your hand, to Pope Benedict."
In one of the most heart-warming encounters of the trip, he visited a juvenile rehabilitation center; Las Garzas center. There, 167 young prisoners, many of them drug addicts, are beginning a process of reintegration. Pope Francis gave them a message of hope.
“Where people’s lives are concerned, it seems easier to post signs and labels that petrify and stigmatize not only people’s past but also their present and future. We label people, don't we? 'This person is like this. They did this and that, therefore it is over for them.' And then these people they label have to carry that sign for the rest of their days. Jesus does not accept it. This culture of adjectives. We love giving adjectives to people.”
During the Way of the Cross with around 400,000 people, the pope mentioned the plagues of the Americas and explained that conformism is a drug.
“We have looked away in order not to see; we have taken refuge in noise in order not to hear; we have covered our mouths in order not to cry out. The temptation is always the same. Your Son’s way of the cross continues in young people with downcast faces who have lost the ability to dream, create and shape their future, and have already chosen to 'retire' in glum resignation or complacency, one of the narcotics most consumed in our time.”
In a vigil at dusk, the pope spoke to young people in his own language. He asked them to be the influencers of the 21st century, just like the Blessed Mother.
“Obviously, the young woman of Nazareth was not part of the 'social networks' of the time. She was not an 'influencer,' but without wanting or trying to, she became the most influential woman in history. Mary, the 'influencer' of God. We can tell her, with the confidence of children, Mary, the 'influencer' of God.”
At the closing Mass, the pope invited the young people to find a passion to fall in love with and fill their lives.
“You, dear young people, are not the future. We like to say, 'you are the future.' No, you are the present. You are not the future of God, but you are the now of God. He invites you and calls you in your communities.”
In another touching meeting during the trip, he visited a center for people with HIV. Pope Francis explained that Jesus does not exclude anyone.
"To be here is to touch the silent and maternal face of the Church that is capable of prophesying and creating a home, creating community. It's the face of the Church that normally is unseen and unnoticed, but it's a sign of the concrete mercy and tenderness of God.”
In his farewell meeting with the WYD volunteers in a stadium, the pope entrusted them with the mission of "putting together a constructive mess." He thanked them for their selfless service and commitment.
“Commitment makes us grow. This is what makes us big. You all gave the best of yourselves to make possible the miracle of multiplication, not only of loaves but of hope. In giving the best of yourselves, by committing yourselves, you performed the miracle of multiplying hope. We need to multiply hope. Thank you all for this.”
On the plane back to Rome, the pope summarized how he felt during his time in Panama.
"The scale of whether a trip meets expectations is the level of exhaustion. I'm depleted." "In Panama, I had a new feeling. I know Latin America, but Panama, no. This word came to me: Panama is a noble nation. I have found nobility."
Without a doubt, it was an exhausting trip. Yet, one that left important messages in Panama that the Panamanians, and pilgrims from all over the world, will keep forever in their memory.