Pope Francis praised the work of volunteers in his closing Mass at World Youth Day in Panama on Jan. 27, using them as a symbol of how more young Catholics should venture out into the world and spread hope.
“You have had a more lively and real experience of faith. You have experienced the strength born of prayer and a new and different kind of joy, the fruit of working side by side even with people you did not know,” the pope said.
“You could have easily chosen to do other things, but you wanted to be involved, to give your best to making possible the miracle of the multiplication, not only of loaves, but also hope,” he told a crowd of 700,000 people at Panama City’s Metro Hope.
“We need to multiply that hope.”
The pope likened the experience of World Youth Day to early Christian settlements, governed by the sharing of limited resources and giving to one’s neighbors.
He also sent a message of urgency of young Catholics, stressing the importance of taking action now to work for a better future, rather than living in “a kind of waiting room, sitting around until we are called.”
The World Youth Day event in Panama saw the participation of 156 countries and was the first to be held in Central America. The next one will take place in Lisbon, Portugal in 2022.
The Jan. 22–27 event did not see the largest attendance figures in history but many hailed its more intimate setting and the warm welcome laid out by the Panamanian people.
Records show 113,000 people registered as pilgrims for various events.
El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz from Texas told Catholic News Service that the World Youth Day was an important counterpoint to growing nationalism around the world. “World Youth Day says, ‘We’re one family of humanity.’ Separating ourselves from others does not make us secure,” he said.