Today was special. When I woke up I could see the Bridge of the Americas was full of traffic streaming into Panama City, from Colombia and beyond. Sr Elaine and I went out to the central bus station where we crossed the road to enter a huge mall. There we soon met lots of young pilgrims, mainly from South and Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. It was such a joy to meet these young enthusiastic people. We exchanged greetings and asked about each others countries, swopped photos. Sr Elaine and I were struck by their general exuberance. We had fun together. I have a little spanish which helps, but you can communicate even without knowing the language.
After that we travelled on the metro to its furthest point. Nothing much to see except more shopping malls and a Bahai Temple. I was struck yet again by the peoples’ willingness to help us. When we were looking at a map of the metro a young man asked us if we needed help. These are such good people. We got back on the metro into central Panama, to the hotel where the Westminster and other diocesan groups are staying. After a wait we met Bishop Nicholas Hudson and the others; about 20 of them. We celebrated mass together in one of the small dining rooms. Afterwards I had a chance to meet the young people from the Westminster group. What lovely people they are. We played pool and had fun. I am looking forward to getting to know them better.
Then it was time for dinner. We were joined by Bishop Hudson and Bishop Terry Drainey (Middlesborough Diocese) and Bishop Alan Williams ( East Anglia). It was a pleasant time and an opportunity to get to know the bishops better. Bishop Alan told me he plans to sleep out after the vigil on Saturday. When he tried to to this at the last WYD in Cracow,Poland, the security had a problem with this; they didn’t expect bishops to sleep out. I too intend to sleep out after the vigil, which I am looking forward to. those who have been to more than one WYD say its the best event.
As I write this on my balcony i can see and hear the heavy traffic on the Bridge of the Americas. It’s a balmy evening, with a soft breeze. How lucky I am to be here. I am looking forward to tomorrow when we begin early joining the British Ambassador for breakfast with the Birmingham archdiocesan group. Then later I am going to hear confessions in a park. In the evening there will be the opening event presided by the Archbishop of Panama.The Pope arrives the following day: Thursday.
I have heard from Bishop Silvio Baez in Nicaragua. He is coming here and hopes to meet me; I certainly hope to meet him. I admire this man’s faith and courage; inspite of many threats, in spite of being called an enemy of the people, he still preaches the gospel message of justice and peace. He has become the symbol of resistance for the people of Nicaragua. His life is in great danger. He knows what happened to Archbishop now Saint, Oscar Romero in neighbouring El Salvador could happen to him.Yet he refuses to be cowed. I am so proud of him.
So that’s all for now. I have an early start so need all the sleep I can get. god bless.