February 1, 2019 — "Right now, I'm not sure what it's going to change in my life. But I know it will make a difference." These are the words of a 34-year-old pilgrim recounted in an excellent article in the newspaper La Croix on WYD, which recalls Pope Francis' insistence on making these meetings a great spiritual retreat.
The 34th edition of World Youth Days was held in Panama from January 22 to 27, 2019. For the first time since its creation in 1985 by Pope John Paul II, the first Latin American pope in history participated in the first WYD in Central America. For four days, the Supreme Pontiff encouraged young people to get involved "now" in order to change the world, to be attentive to God's call. As was the case for the young Mary who, by answering "yes" to this call, contributed to making the world a better place.
During his long-awaited closing Mass, delivered on Sunday morning in front of hundreds of thousands of faithful assembled on the Saint Jean Paul II campus in Metro Park near Panama City, the Pope hammered on the same message to young people: "You are not the future, but God's now". We must work towards a better tomorrow today.
No more waiting around. The Pope launches a real call for the commitment of the world's Catholic youth. And we feel the urgency to act.
"God gathers you and calls you in your communities and cities to go in search of your grandparents, your elders; to rise and speak with them and realize the dream that the Lord dreamed for you," he said in his closing homily.
Faithful to Ignatian spirituality, this first Jesuit pope invites us to meditate. He encouraged the young people to enter into themselves, to do a silent introspection, to meditate in order to hear the divine word.
The 34th edition of WYD was marked by hope. Hope for a more introspective Catholic youth who are more receptive to God's call, youth he hopes to be at the forefront of a movement for the progress of humanity.
In addition to the importance of action, the Pope mentioned (and deplored) the sexual scandals within the Church. He also spoke of the decline in priestly vocations, the problems specific to the South American continent and even warned young people against the overuse of new technologies.
This is the third WYD for Pope Francis who was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2013 and in Krakow, Poland in 2016. The next WYD meeting will be held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2022, in accordance with the rule of alternating between a European country and the rest of the world.
To read Pope Francis' closing homily, click here.