Pope Francis received, in the Vatican, the Bishops of Panama, on June 8, who were in Rome on their ad Limina visit, a visit that every Episcopal Conferences carries out generally every five years. It is a pilgrimage to Rome, to pray at the threshold (ad Limina) of the tombs of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and to reiterate their fidelity to the Holy Father.
ZENIT had a conversation with Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama, who pointed out that the Bishops’ meeting with the Pontiff was one of “great fraternity; we felt the closeness of our Father and Brother and especially the presence of Peter, who is coming to confirm the faith of the Church pilgrimaging in Panama.”
Archbishop Ulloa also said that they sat in a circle “and Francis said: ‘We are here to listen to one another, so that we can discern together what the Spirit wants for the Church.’ We began the day with Mass at Saint Martha’s and with the Audience, which lasted almost two hours.”
The first item was to explain to the Holy Father the progress made “for the World Youth Day in Panama in 2019. We already have the local committee, that of support on the part of the State but what is most interesting is that young people are getting involved,” he said.
Asked if Francis confirmed his presence, the Archbishop of Panama said “Francis said to me, “don’t worry Peter will go.’ And with these words, I think the Pope wished to do away with the personal side.”
Another topic they addressed was that of the family, because “the gender ideology tends to get in silently to destroy the concept of family and of the human being as creature of God,” said the Archbishop.
The Laity was also on the agenda, and the Pope said to the Panamanian Bishops: “Much of the strength of the Church lies in an active laity,” and he invited “us to accompany and form the laity and to avoid clericalizing them. Laymen must know that they are the builders of a new humanity, they must not stay ad intra but be capable of going out and of spreading the ferment of the Gospel in their environments, in politics, in the economy, in education and in all realms, and they must have their voice heard..”
The Holy Father did not forget young people. He said that “the Church and the world must give them opportunities and, as he suggested with the laity, that we must believe in young people, who are not only the future but <also> the present,” so he exhorted us see to it “that young people understand that they are protagonists of the changes that the world and the Church need.”
In preparing for the Synod of Youth, the Pope urged the Bishops “to listen, not only to the young people of our Churches, but also to those that are outside, who do not believe,” and to those they come across.
“The Pope asked us to be very concerned for the needs of priests. We spoke about the need for a presbyterial pastoral of priestly animation, and he stressed the permanent formation of the clergy, because herein lies the key for the clergy to be able to accompany and be accompanied by the laity,” explained Archbishop Ulloa.
Regarding immigration, the Archbishop said “in my country we are a place of reception. This year we had the great migration of Cubans and now we are touching the subject of Venezuela and Colombia. In addition, there is the subject of refugees, because laws take so much time and refugees cannot work.”
At the end of the interview, Archbishop Ulloa said that they are doing a number of works in his country, “such as the accompaniment of brothers with HIV Aids, with a house of reception, in addition to the John Paul II Center for the recovery of people with addictions.” These are just “some of the many concrete responses to the reality the country is living.”
Present at the audience were: Monsignor Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, P.S.A., Archbishop of Panama with Auxiliary Bishops: Monsignor Pablo Varela Server, Titular Bishop of Macomades Rusticana; Monsignor Uriah Ashley, Titular Bishop of Agbia; Monsignor Rafael Valdivieso Miranda, Bishop of Chitre; Monsignor Manuel Ochogavia Barahona. O.S.A., Bishop of Colon-Kuna Yala; Monsignor Edgardo Cedeno Munoz, S.V.D., Bishop of Penonome; Monsignor Audilio AguilarAguilar, Bishop of Santiago de Veraguas; Monsignor Anibal Saldana Santamaria, O.A.R., Prelate of Bocas del Toro; Monsignor Pedro Joaquin Hernandez Cantarero, C.M.F., Titular Bishop of Tabraca and Apostolic Vicar of Darien, and Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, Bishop of David.