Ten days before the start, more than 400,000 young people from 155 countries are expected for the 34th World Youth Day (WYD) at Panama, planned from January 22-27. One thousand indigenous young people from five Continents will take part in their special WYD (which will begin three days earlier, from January 16-19).
These are the numbers, which are transmitted to the organisers, said Giancarlo Candanedo, spokesman of the WYDs, to “Vatican News”.
“How are we preparing ourselves? — First of all by prayer. We must not forget that it’s a very great challenge for a small country like ours. The Holy Father wished to give this responsibility, not only to Panama but to the whole of Central America and to all its episcopate,” explained the spokesman.
“Last week, we showed the Popemobile in public, made by a group of Panamanians of the city,” continued Candanedo.
Another novelty is a Rosary made by poor Bethlehem families, which will be included in the pilgrim’s kit. One and a half million rosaries were produced.
The Panamanian government has taken an active part in the preparation of the Day. “For the first time in the history of the WYDs, the government has created an administrative structure, able to help us in the organization of the event. They have made things easier. It’s a help for the Church,” stressed Candanedo.
This year World Youth Day will also prove to be an inter-religious affair as a local Jewish synagogue will host Catholic pilgrims .
Kol Shearith Israel synagogue, located in the city’s Costa del Este neighborhood, volunteered to open their doors when they heard shelter was still needed for the more than 400,000 young people registered to descend on Panama beginning January 22nd . This number is expected to swell to well over half a million by the week’s end.
Youths from all continents will participate but the more numerous groups are from Latin American countries and the United States. Europe will also be represented by thousands of young people.
Father Michele Falabretti, head of the national office of the Youth Ministry of the Italian Episcopal Conference confirmed that there will be numerous Italian youngsters in Panama. “Despite the difficulties, our numbers have surpassed our expectations; almost 1,300 young people will participate. It’s an important number because to go to the other end of the world in this season isn’t easy,” he said.
In numerous dioceses, for instance, in Bologna, they are organizing meetings to coincide with the WYD, in the course of which young people will be able to celebrate and share moments of reflection and prayer,“ he added.