Last night, the WYD Panama 2019 pilgrims had the opportunity to have a profound prayer experience with Pope Francis. The traditional World Youth Day Way of the Cross was held at Santa María La Antigua-Cinta Costera, yesterday at 5:30 pm. This year, each station of the cross was led by a different Latin American country, including its leading Marian devotion and a specific prayer intention.
The stations were led by Honduras, with a prayer about answering to God’s call; Cuba, on unity; El Salvador, on martyrs and the persecuted; Guatemala, for Native Americans; Costa Rica, for the Earth and nature; Venezuela, for migrants; Haiti, for the victims of tragedies; Brazil, on the call to share Christ’s hope; Dominican Republic, on violence against women; Colombia, on justice and human rights; Puerto Rico, for the end of corruption; Belize, for mothers; Mexico, on violence and murder; and Nicaragua, with a prayer for the protection of the unborn. After the Way of the Cross, Panamanian youth led a prayer centered on the cross and the spreading of the gospel.
Diomedez Martines, from Chorrera, Panama, is among the young volunteers chosen to carry the cross. He said that Mary’s presence through the experience was so powerful that it even moved them during the rehearsals. “In the rehearsal yesterday we felt it a lot, the sun was burning hot, but peace came to all of us, a peace we were not able to explain. It was Mary who was present in each of us, young men and women.”
For Aquiles Camaño, from Panama City, who is also carrying the cross, the Way of the Cross is an especially meaningful form of prayer. “For me, the Way of the Cross makes me see in Jesus that strength and faith he had with God the Father. It’s putting myself in his shoes through all that he went through and see that, if he could go through all of that and resurrect, I can go through all of my problems, especially if I have faith.”
Magdalena, a pilgrim from Uruguay, felt especially moved by the Pope’s focus on the many kinds of problems the world is facing today “[Pope Francis] truly suffers with them, and he teaches us to do this just like Jesus did. It helped me a lot.” She also said that Pope Francis was a man of hope, who “believes in us a lot, in what we can do for the Church. He transmits hope, trust, and hope.”
Guadalupe, Chorrera, was also moved by Pope Francis’s testimony, but, for her, it was more of an invitation to prayer. “I felt that the profound recollection the Pope had as he prayed was very important. By staying constantly in prayer he invited us to do the same […] we must not be close up to the needs of the world, we must stay open and prayerful.”
Maria Isabel Espinoza from Veracruz, México, was especially moved by the focus in Latin America, “You get to feel that brotherhood of all of those countries.” When she realized that Mexico was leading one of the stations, she got very excited, “I told the person sitting by my side, ‘This is my country! This is my country!”
For Fr Hander Camilo Llano, a priest from Bogotá, “Walking in [the Pope’s] company in the fourteen stations has been vocationally enriching and inspiring.” He has been a religious for six years, and this experience with the Pope has helped him “confirm and strengthen the answer I’ve been giving to the Lord.”
Julia, from Córdoba, Argentina, felt especially moved by the last station, where the Pope and the youth prayed for the protection of the unborn children. “I found the part on abortion particularly strong, good and moving, especially because of the situation that Argentina is going through. We’re living a very strong fight in Argentina so that abortion is not legalized.”
Julia then added, “Young people, let’s keep making a mess!”