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‘You are ready for something greater’, pope tells young people at vigil

For many pilgrims, the long-awaited vigil with Pope Francis at St. John Paul II Field began miles away from the park. Crowds took the traditional pilgrim walk, at least a nine-mile journey from the city center to the eastern edge of Panama City near Tocumen Airport.



Moving through major roads and neighborhoods, they made their way to sections to rest, hydrate and prepare for the pope’s arrival. Diverse performing arts acts entertained the pilgrims and excited them for Pope Francis. Virtual pilgrims, young people celebrating World Youth Day in dioceses all across the world, were highlighted on the screen, reminding pilgrims in Panama of the universality of the Church.

Soon Pope Francis’s well-known smile flashed across the screens scattered around the park, and pilgrims rushed to the fences to see the Popemobile carrying the pope. Excited pilgrims lifted their countries' flags high while others lined the barricades with their flags to welcome the pope as he passed by their sections. The atmosphere was electric as Pope Francis greeted the throngs of people cheering.

The golden sun reached the horizon, and as the pope walked onto the stage, the focus of the nighttime vigil was 'Contemplating life through the 'Yes' of Mary'. This was explored through a performance called 'The Tree of Life' which revealed salvation history in current times. Through dramatic movements and colors, it is seen that sin does not have the last word, and Christ's sacrifice on the cross destroys death. Pilgrims saw how onlly through the Virgin Mary's 'yes' did salvation come for all humanity.

Several testimonies of young people, including Erika and Rogelio of Panama, Alfredo also of panama, and Nirmeen of Palestine, followed and showed different challenges in life: the choice of life in abortion, gang violence and Christian persecution. In each, pilgrims saw how choosing to hear the Word of God and say yes to Jesus Christ in their lives.

In his address, Pope Francis challenged young people to "not be afraid to welcome life as it comes, to embrace life." He thanked the young people for sharing their stories and said they were like the Virgin Mary, who said "Let it be done." He said that the four young people understood Mary's yes.

"May He help you to discover the beauty of being alive," the pope said. "Do not be afraid to tell Him that you too want to be a part of his love story in this world, that you are ready for something greater!"

In his famous call and response style, the pope asked the young people: "Are you willing to be like an 'influencer' like Mary, who dared to say, 'Let it be done'?" The young people roared in response.

He closed his message the same way he began his pontificate: by asking to be prayed for. He said, pray for me so that "I too will be unafraid to embrace life, to care for its roots and say, like Mary, 'Let it be done, according to your word!'"

Adoration and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament followed, with the pope praying with the young people. The monstrance, a large symbolic sculpture by Panamanian artist Armando Granja, held the Blessed Sacrament aloft. Bearing the features of a Latin American woman, it was forged from melted bullet shells, a reference to the violence rife throughout Latin America. A symbol of violence contrasts the Christian message of peace and salvation.

Chant, music and silence marked the sacred time of prayer. Pilgrims fell to their knees in worship, praying with Pope Francis. After Benediction, the Holy Father prayed before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and then entrusted it to the young people so that Mary could accompany them through the night.