Pope Francis has arrived in Panama to participate in the 34th World Youth Day with young people from 155 countries.

The last time a Pope stepped off a plane from Rome onto the soil of Panama was 36 years ago. It was March 5th 1983. And the Pope was John Paul II.

The flying time from Rome to Panama City is just under 13 hours. And there’s a 6-hour time difference. So Pope Francis looked justifiably tired as he walked down the steps of the Alitalia aircraft and greeted Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez and the First Lady. With head bowed he listened attentively to the national anthems of the Holy See and Panama, respectively, and shook hands with the authorities present.

Then, just as the security detail was dutifully ushering him into the waiting car, the Pope turned and waded into the crowd that had been trying frantically to grab his attention in every way possible.

That’s when his demeanour changed dramatically. At the sight of the smiling, flushed and excited faces (not to mention the beautiful babies thrust at him from every direction), Pope Francis became suddenly animated. It was as though he had just woken up. Every sign of fatigue disappeared as he waved, hugged, blessed and beamed with obvious delight.

On Thursday, the papal programme begins in earnest. His first appointment of the day is at the Presidential Palace where he pays a courtesy visit on the President and meets local Authorities and members of the Diplomatic Corps. He will also have an important encounter with the Bishops of Central America before lunch.

But the highlight of the day, at least as far as the young people are concerned, is the opening ceremony for the World Youth Day at the Campo Santa Maria di Antigua on the Coastal Belt.

In a tweet before his departure the Pope said, “I am leaving for the World Youth Day in Panama. I ask you to pray for this very beautiful and important event on the path of the Church.”

The theme for World Youth Day 2019 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.”

ENDS

Source: Vatican News