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“Thank you, Pope, for Holding a Youth Day of the Peripheries, Says Panama’s Archbishop Ulloa

Homily of the Mass of Welcome to Pilgrims

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“Thank you dear young people because you, in face of all the difficulties, were able to leap over the pitfalls and have gathered in this small nation, in this small Church, which from today we can say has become the capital of youth,” said Archbishop Ulloa.
Thus, the Archbishop of Panama, Monsignor Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, began his homily at the opening Mass of the World Youth Day (WYD), held on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at 5:00 pm, with the participation of 75,000 people, including Bishops, priests and young people, attending the WYD opening celebration.
“Thank you, Pope Francis, for entrusting to us and for giving us the opportunity to hold a Youth Day of the existential and geographic peripheries,” continued Archbishop Ulloa.
“We hope it will be a balm for the difficult situation in which many of them live without hope, especially the Indian and Afro-descendent youth., the youth that migrates because of the almost non-existent answer of their countries of origin, which hurls them to fulfil their hopes to other countries, exposing them to drug trafficking, human trafficking, delinquency and so many other social evils.”
Saints in Today’s World
“Let’s not be afraid, dear young people. Have the courage to be saints in today’s world. With this you don’t give up your youth or joy; on the contrary, you will show the world that it’s possible to be happy with very little, because Jesus Christ, the reason of our happiness, with His Resurrection already won for us eternal life,” exhorted the Archbishop.
Here is a translation of the complete homily of the Archbishop of Panama, Monsignor Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, during the opening Mass of the 2019 World Youth Day.
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Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa’s Homily
Allow me in the first place to greet those that are the real protagonists of this meeting, as you are, dear pilgrims, who have come from more than 140 countries, to meet together and to dream together that a new world and a new Church is possible.
Thank you, dear young people, because you, in face of all the difficulties, were able to leap over the pitfalls and have desired to gather in this small nation, in this small Church, which we can say that, from today, becomes the capital of youth and, to speak of young people is to speak of hope, because a change in the world, a change in the Church will only come form your hand, dear young people.
Dear young people:
Our joy is immense given the presence of you all. Panama receives you today with an open heart and open arms. Thank you for accepting the call to meet with one another in this small country, in which, under the name of Santa Maria la Antigua, the faith arrived by Mary’s hand. A country that had made its best effort so that each one of you will have an encounter with Jesus: Way, Truth and Life.
We were the first diocese in terra firma, and from here, on September 9, 1530, the Gospel was radiated to the rest of the American Continent, ever under the protection of Mary, <our> Mother. She has always accompanied us; therefore, it’s not strange that in that encounter with Jesus Christ in this World Youth Day, it is Mary who has encouraged us and will continue to encourage us for the celebration of this historic event, which we will all live united: the chronological young people and those of us who are over 60 but who feel young, because we only cease to be young if we cease to dream.
We thank God for being the venue of the first World Youth Day where Mary, “the Star of Evangelization,” is proposed to you as model of bravery and courage. She, a young girl, was willing to carry out God’s plan, for which He chose Her, and whose answer is the motto of this WYD: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.”
Today all of us can say: Thank you, Pope Francis, for entrusting to us and giving us the opportunity to hold a Youth Day of the existential and geographic peripheries. We hope it will be balm for the difficult situation in which many of them live, especially the Indian and Afro-descendant youth; the youth that migrates because of the almost non-existent answer of their countries of origin, which hurl them to fulfil their hopes in other countries, exposing them to drug trafficking, human trafficking, delinquency and so many other social evils.
You are very important for the Church, as well as for other faith communities of our country, but particularly for those in communion with the Secretariat of the Episcopate of Central America, which includes all the Bishops of the region. A whole human machinery organized itself for you, to make it possible for you to have the minimum necessary conditions to live your pilgrimage in this small country.
You, dear pilgrims of different countries of our planet earth, will find in Panama a little piece of the whole world. Our history of service, of being a point of encounter, of unity in diversity, regardless of creed, race, age, or sex makes us a blessed nation.
Thanks to your presence this country, together with you, is from this moment the capital of the world’s youth, in which human warmth, and also the climate for this time, create the propitious conditions, so that you can live together with your peers, sharing dreams, hopes, plans that, by the strength of the Holy Spirit, commit you to bringing about the revolution of love, which won’t be easy, but neither will it be impossible if, like Mary, we put our trust in God.
What country are you pilgrims finding?
An example of what the pilgrims will live this week was had by those who had the experience of days in the dioceses, both in Panama as well as in Costa Rica.
Our people are ready to receive you, to share their traditions, their multi-ethnic and multi-cultural richness, but very especially to share the joy of faith in a God who is acting among us, in our personal and communal history. The necessary preparation has taken place in the parishes and reception homes to give the best of all that is ours, affection, closeness, fraternity, our adopting you as true family, the family of God.
Willingness to Listen to God
During these WYDs, you’ll have the opportunity to attend catecheses with Bishops of different countries. You will be able to count on an interesting formation, the Park of Forgiveness where there are places for Confession, to be reconciled with God; the Youth Festival in which the variety of the talent of the different countries offers possibilities to nourish the spirit, and the very special encounter with the Eucharistic Jesus, spiritual food to face life’s challenges.
This encounter of you, young people, with Jesus Christ, should lead you to a confrontation with yourselves and with the indoctrination of the anti-values system that reigns, sustained in the quest for a false happiness, which is so fleeting that leads you to experience desperately so many things that harm the mind and spirit, at that in the end are unable to fill the existential void.
Young people: the call continues in force, perennial, intense, full of a tenderness that Christ alone is able to communicate. Perhaps, as Church, we have been unable to transmit this with sufficient clarity, because at times we, adults, think that young people don’t want to listen, that they are deaf and are empty. But the reality is another. You need orientation, accompaniment and, above all, you need to be heard.
We know that you don’t let yourselves be easily impressed. Packaged phrases don’t work, theatrical discourses or slogans designed to stir the emotions. We know that just as in Jesus’ times, young people look for witnesses, references full of content and experience, as a path followed on foot, with mileage, and not a learned and intellectualized God. You are looking for those that show you God with their life and not those that talk to you about God.
Young People: True Protagonists of the WYD
We, in the Church, are waiting for this youthful spring. We trust in you, we expect much from you, because we are fully convinced that the true protagonists for the changes and transformations that humanity and the Church need are in your hands, in your capacities, in your vision of a better world.
To take on this great challenge, you must prepare yourselves in conscience, knowing your personal, family, social and cultural history, but especially your history of faith. Only thus, by the hand of your grandparents and your elders, with the joy of the Gospel, will you be able to transform those situations of injustice and inequity, which wound society.
The Virgin Mary, the young girl of Nazareth is the trustworthy model to follow in her availability and service to God’s plan. She is that young girl who dared to say YES to God’s plan. She did not fear, despite what it implied amid the risk it meant in those moments.  Yet even so, she said yes, because She knew God’s promise made to His people, that He would send the Savior. Her life of faith gave Her the strength and her confidence in God supported Her to assume being the Mother of God made man.
Each youth can rediscover in Mary’s eyes the beauty of discernment. He can experience in his heart the tenderness of the intimacy and the courage of the testimony and of the mission.
Therefore, this WYD has been entrusted to Mary. To trust in Mary isn’t only to ask Her to help us or to ask for Her intercession in everything. It is also to act like Her. Let us imitate Her willingness to serve, as she did for her cousin Elizabeth. Are we ready to have a sword pierce our heart as it did Mary’s; living Her Son’s Passion and waiting patiently for his joyful Resurrection?
During the preparation of the WYD, we, in the Church, saw and discovered young people capable of giving themselves for others. Talents and leaderships emerged that supported the organization of this Day; they gave it in season and out of season. This is a valuable proof that you can take on unthinkable projects.
Visible Indian and Afro-descendent Youth
A wonderful experience was also had with indigenous and Afro-descendent young people. They had their meetings prior to the WYD, to address their specific realities. This marks a milestone in the Days, because for the first time they had a specific place.
The World Youth Day in this region could not be held without seeing their situation, because they represent a significant number of the Continent’s population, who live in situations of exclusion and discrimination, which put them in marginality and poverty.
In the Afro-descents’ WYD Forum, youthful leaders of different religions and ideologies showed their capacity to generate together answers to their situation of discrimination and exclusion, calling for public policies in the areas of justice, education, work and woman’s claim from her culture and ethnicity, not only in social but also in religious areas. The importance of recovering the historical memory with grandparents and older adults was also of great importance for the Afro-descendent youths.
Indigenous young people held their World Meeting, where they also focused on the living memory of their peoples, in the struggle to maintain harmony with Mother Earth from the richness of their cultures in the light of Laudato Si’ and the importance of their active participation in the construction of another possible world.  Pope Francis’ message was encouraging for the indigenous youth.
DOCAT: A Tool of Formation
In the accompaniment of the formation of our youth, we are proposing to them the study of the Social Doctrine of the Church — through a technological tool –, which will strengthen youthful leadership.
This is a dream of Pope Francis that we also want you young pilgrims to assume, especially in the Central American region, because a way of addressing adversities from the faith is to know the social thought of the Church, to make the revolution of love and justice a reality.
The Pope’s gift to Central American young people is the DOCAT Book and DOCAT App, which will be handed out during the WYD, and it is an opportunity for you to be able to assume your leadership responsibly.
Saints to Transform the Reality
In his Apostolic Exhortation on “The Call to Sanctity in Today’s World,” Pope Francis points out that sanctity has its risks, challenges and opportunities.  Because the Lord chose each one of us so “that we should be holy and blameless before Him. He destined us in love (Ephesians 1:4).”
And to be saints isn’t to have faces of figures of the holy cards that we buy anywhere — no, dear brothers and dear young people. We can all be saints, even when we might think that our existence doesn’t have great value, given all the sins committed. We can all live and reach sanctity.
The Holy Father says to us that, to be a saint, one must go against the current; one must be able to weep, to come out of the logic to “stop suffering,” which makes us waste “much energy to escape from the circumstances where suffering is present.” To be a saint makes us come out of spiritual and material corruption, from all that causes us harm and offends God.
A saint defends the defenseless: the unborn, but also the born in misery; he defends migrants, seeks justice, prays, lives and loves the community, is joyful and has a sense of humour, always struggles, comes out of mediocrity, lives God’s mercy and shares with his neighbour.
To be a saint isn’t a myth, it’s a palpable reality. The witness of life of men and women saints of the WYD are proof of it: Saint Martin of Porres, Saint Rose of Lima, Saint Juan Diego, Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio, Saint John Bosco, Blessed Sister Maria Romero Meneses, Saint Oscar Romero, John Paul II. All of them show us that a life of holiness is possible, in all cultures and ethnic groups, regardless of sex or age. The generous surrender of their lives to God and to their neighbour made them attain sanctity.
Let us not be afraid, dear young people, to have the courage to be saints in today’s world, with this you don’t give up your youth or your joy; on the contrary, you will show the world that it’s possible to be happy with so little, because Jesus Christ, the reason of our happiness, already won eternal life for us with His Resurrection.
Dear young people who have prepared for the World Youth Day, I invite you to be willing to live from this moment with humility and the availability of believers this historic experience in this Panamanian Isthmus, where the faith arrived over 500 years ago We hope that we will be able to say today, at the conclusion of the WYD, that we have sent into the world those new disciples of Jesus Christ to radiate in the whole earth the joy of the Gospel, the Gospel of Mercy and of the Love of God. During these days, Panama City will be a great “house of Prayer and of Christian Promotion.” The word of God will resound at all moments and in all corners of Panama.
Everything is ready to live the celebration of God’s love in our midst. But don’t forget that She who will take us by the hand is Mary, and Pope Francis as the true Vicar of Jesus Christ, will strengthen and confirm us in the faith.

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Rosa Die Alcolea

Profesional con 7 años de experiencia laboral en informar sobre la vida de la Iglesia y en comunicación institucional de la Iglesia en España, además de trabajar como crítica de cine y crítica musical como colaboradora en distintos medios de comunicación. Nació en Córdoba, el 22 de octubre de 1986. Doble licenciatura en Periodismo y Comunicación Audiovisual en Universidad CEU San Pablo, Madrid (2005-2011). Ha trabajado como periodista en el Arzobispado de Granada de 2010 a 2017, en diferentes ámbitos: redacción de noticias, atención a medios de comunicación, edición de fotografía y vídeo, producción y locución de 2 programas de radio semanales en COPE Granada, maquetación y edición de la revista digital ‘Fiesta’. Anteriormente, ha trabajado en COPE Córdoba y ABC Córdoba.

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