Pope Francis is in Panama for a global gathering of young Catholics for World Youth Day
In a speech to government ministers and diplomats, he called on political leaders to reject “all forms of corruption”
PANAMA CITY: Pope Francis said in Panama Thursday that the Church must
work to overcome the world’s “fears and suspicions” of migration, and
pledged his support for efforts to avoid further suffering in
The pope is being kept abreast of developments in Caracas, and was
praying for the people of Venezuela, Vatican spokesman Alessandro
Gisotti said. Francis is supporting “all efforts” to avoid further
suffering for the population, he said.
Speaking from Panama in Central America — the hub for US-bound migrants —
Francis said migrants were simply seeking “the minimum conditions for a
The Argentine pope was addressing Central American bishops on the first
day of his visit for a global gathering of young Catholics for World
Earlier, in a speech to government ministers and members of the
diplomatic corps at the foreign ministry, he called on political leaders
to reject “all forms of corruption.”
Young people, he said, insisted that those in positions of authority
should “lead a life that demonstrates that public service is a synonym
of honesty and justice, and opposed to all forms of corruption.”
He returned to the theme in his speech to bishops at the nearby 17th Century St. Francis of Assisi Church.
“Plaque of femicide”
Here, he deplored what he called “the plague” of femicide in Latin
America, where some 2,800 women are killed each year, according to the
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
“The killing of women — our continent is experiencing a plague in this
regard,” Francis said, saying this and other problems like drug
trafficking, gang violence and the sexual exploitation of minors and
young people, were “the fruit of a culture and a society run amok.”
“Often families have been broken by an economic system that did not
prioritize persons and the common good, but made speculation its
‘paradise,’ without worrying who would end up paying the price.”
“And so, we see our young people without a home, without a family,
without a community, without a sense of belonging, easy prey for the
first charlatan who comes along.”
Francis won praise from young people for his comments.
“These crimes are part of a highly macho culture in which we feel diminished,” said Fatima Melendez, 18, from El Salvador.
In her country, she said, women need “peace in something as simple as going out into the street.”
In the early evening, tens of thousands of young people gave the pope a
rock-star welcome to the Catholic jamboree at a palm-fringed park
overlooking Panama Bay.
“We want to tell you not to be afraid,” the pope said, urging them instead to go forward with “fresh energy and restlessness.”
“Constant freshness and youth”
The idea was not to create “a parallel Church that would be more ‘fun’
or ‘cool’ thanks to a fancy youth event,” he said. But instead, the
“constant freshness and youth” should be used in “service to our
brothers and sisters, and concrete service at that.”
Several migrant caravans, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El
Salvador, have been making their way through Central America and Mexico
to the US border since last October, amid trenchant opposition from US
President Donald Trump.
Francis told bishops that the Church, with hospitality and acceptance,
can facilitate “dialogue and help overcome fears and suspicions, and
thus consolidate the very bonds that migrations — in the collective
imagination — threaten to break.”
Thousands turned out to cheer the pope on his way from the Papal
Nunciature, where he spent the first night of his five-day visit, to his
first official engagement of the day, a courtesy call on President Juan
In the narrow streets of the old city, they leaned forward over barriers
as the pope’s small sedan passed by, waving red and white Panamanian
At the foreign ministry, soberly-suited diplomats posed for selfies with
the pope and stretched out to shake his hand as he left the podium
after his speech.
Prayer for Venezuela
At the festive event in the park, dozens of young pilgrims held up a
giant yellow, blue and red banner with the legend “Pray for Venezuela.”
In crisis-wracked Venezuela, opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido has
proclaimed himself president with the support of the United States and
several other countries — including Panama — setting up a tense standoff
with the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
On Friday, Francis will visit a youth detention center and hear the
confessions of inmates, including one serving time for murder.
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