"The experience of being welcomed by simple, cordial and friendly people, always ready to help you, is the hallmark of my stay so far," says Fr Ambrose Pereira, an Indian Salesian who leads a delegation of young people from as far as Papua New Guinea. "Panama has dressed up for the occasion with banners and flags and, above all, with a spirit of contagious joy and happiness."
It is precisely the young who most fascinate those who meet them on the street. They are smiling, joyful, cheerful and engaging. Many are working as volunteers, and they prepared themselves with great zeal: as did Jenica, a young American woman, who guides the groups of pilgrims to the various moments of the WYD: catechesis, meetings with the Pope, celebrations.
Others simply pass on their enthusiasm to everyone they meet. Like, Adriana and Juan, both Panamanians, who say to their peers: "Do not lose happiness and the desire to show the world that with Christ we can succeed in whatever goal we set ourselves"; and again: "Under no circumstances must you lose hope, because God always has a plan for each of us."
While waiting for the great meetings with the Pope, many young people have spent the first days of the WYD visiting the “Vocations Fair” at the Omar Park, deepening the path of discernment on their lives.
Also the “Park of Forgiveness” is another symbolic place: there are 250 confessionals and young people have formed long queues, despite the heat, to approach the sacrament of Reconciliation. "The search for a serious life of faith is evident," says Fr Pereira.
The opening Mass of the WYD, Tuesday 22nd, was presided over by Msgr. José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, OSA, archbishop of Panama. With just a few words, the archbishop summarized the meaning of WYD: "As pilgrims we come to share the personal and living encounter with the Lord, united with young people from around the world who add their wealth of culture, tradition and experience. Let us celebrate the glory of God by professing one faith in many languages, to glorify God through prayer, love, forgiveness and communion with all."