Of Course, World Youth Day is a misnomer; it’s more like World Youth Week. It all kicks off on Tuesday and finishes on Sunday. Today was special. I went to a church in the city where there was a mass in English. It turned out there were several different nationalities: New Zealanders, Irish, Latvians, Brazilians and the Panamanians. There were two bishops, one from NZ the other from Latvia and about 15 concelebrants. It was a real celebration of worship coloured by different national hymns and even dance. It was noisy by our british standards, and late starting; but you soon get used to that here. After the mass, attended by several hundred people, there was a delicious meal for all. As I sat down to enjoy my meal, chatting to who ever was nearest, the young men and one lady played football. There were three brazilian priests who had brought along a number of youngsters caught up in drugs and crime. How I admired this hands on christianity. There was so much energy at this event; joy and happiness: it was good to be together.
Learned yesterday that Bishop Silvio Baez will be coming from Nicaragua. He is a leading light for peace and justice in his troubled country, a figure not dissimilar to Archbishop Oscar Romero, now a Saint. He is so courageous, speaking out against the atrocities of the government. I hope to meet him when he comes.
I knew I wasn’t in London when I got up the first morning, looked out my window and all I could see were palm trees and other luxurious trees and plants. A swallow flew past, then what I thought was an eagle, but later learned was a vulture. The weather is hot and humid. I can see the famous canal, and the occasional ship passing by. Panama is very different from London. It is quite small, but easy to get around once you’ve worked out the public transport; the metro is excellent.
I’ve arrived early with the team leaders representing the bishops of England and Wales. Four bishops are coming and about eight priests, we are expecting about 300 young people from the UK. We shall all meet up soon. As part of the preparation we met the British Ambassador at his residence, where we had afternoon tea. Afterwards I visited the park where the sacrament of reconciliation will be held. I shall be helping at this. By now I have a fair idea of the city and can get around quite confidently, thanks in great part to ‘google maps’. I picked up my kit last Friday; everyone got a bag full of goodies, including a colour coded teeshirt, a rosary (made in Bethlehem) and some books. I also got passes that everyone who attends the Vigil and the Papal mass next Sunday will need. So now I am ready.
This is my first WYD. I am so looking forward to meeting all the young people, about 300 are expected. I’m also looking forward to hearing the Pope. It is going to be a very special experience and one that is going to leave quite an impression. It is 9.30 at night as I write this but it is still warm. I smile when I think of how lucky I am, with the weather so cold back in London. I will try to write a blog each day; this is my first.