PALM BEACH GARDENS | Hundreds of thousands of Catholic youth and young adult pilgrims are expected to travel to the 34th International World Youth Day in Panama City, Panama, Jan. 22-29. This pilgrimage provides an opportunity for young people from all around the world to join together with Pope Francis for prayer, worship, catechesis, and celebration of the Catholic faith amidst a festive, religious, and cultural atmosphere.
Pope Francis has declared the Blessed Virgin Mary as the heart of this year’s World Youth Day. Its theme is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” In 2019, the World Youth Day patron saints decided upon are: St. John Bosco, Venerable Sister Romero Meneses, St. Oscar Romero, St. John Paul II, St. Joselito, St. Juan Diego, St. Rosa of Lima, and St. Martín de Porres.
This will be the first World Youth Day celebrated in Central America. Although World Youth Day is usually celebrated in the summer months, the local Panamanian Catholic Church choose to celebrate January to avoid the rainy season. The date also accommodates pilgrims from South America, many of whom celebrate their summer vacations in January.
According to Catholic News Service, Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa of Panama told journalists by early December, 47,000 young pilgrims from 155 countries had registered for the event, while 168,000 others are completing the registration process. He also said that an estimated 37,000 volunteers have signed up to help assist young people attending the event. Local church and government officials were optimistic and said they expected some 200,000 young people to attend, Catholic News Service reported.
From the United States, by Dec. 19 more than 10,000 young pilgrims had registered to attend the events in Panama and the number continues to climb, said Paul Jarzembowski, World Youth Day USA coordinator and assistant director of youth and young adult ministries for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Approximately 150 teens and young adults throughout the Diocese of Palm Beach and the Archdiocese of Miami are expected to travel to the event.
The pilgrimage offers a week filled with coordinated Catholic events with the opportunity to participate in daily Mass and catechesis, explore the vocation center and local Catholic holy sites, and celebrate adoration and fellowship though praise and worship festivities.
St. John Paul II initiated the first World Youth Day in 1985. He began this movement to create an opportunity for young people of the Church to engage in a personal encounter with Christ. This movement also promotes peace, unity, and fraternity among a diverse group of people and myriad of nations. Unity, acceptance, and appreciation of this diversity is portrayed by pilgrims from different countries in the exchanging of flags, shirts, crosses, and other Catholic icons as souvenirs.
In 1995, World Youth Day in the Philippines set a world record for the largest gathering of people for a single religious event with five million Catholics present at the closing Mass. The most recent International World Youth Day, held in Kraków, Poland in 2016, estimated three million people in attendance, the third gathering of its kind in central Europe.
For information, visit https://panama2019.pa/en/home/.