Fragments of the words of the President of Panama, His Excellency Mr. Juan Carlos Varela, to the pilgrims
World Youth Day, at their meeting on October 30 at the Archbishopric of Havana.
When I entered the archbishopric and heard the young people singing the song of the WYD of Panama, “Behold the servant of the Lord, be made in me according to your word”, the truth is that I was very excited. […] For me World Youth Day is going to be a very important event for the region, for Cuba, for our Catholic Church and for the world.
I remember right now the words of His Holiness John Paul II, when many years ago he visited Cuba and said, “Cuba has to open up to the world and the world has to open up to Cuba.” It was a very deep message. Then came the visit to Cuba of Pope Benedict XVI, in which I participated, at that time he was vice president of Panama. Then Came Pope Francis, a visit my wife was able to attend. And when the Bishops of Central America, members of the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America (SEDAC), presented Pope Francis with the possibility of the Day being held in Panama, one of the reasons that this proposal underscored was the closeness between this country and Cuba and the air connectivity between the two nations. […] And seeing the Catholic Church in Cuba with the visit of three popes, especially the Holy Father, John Paul II, the strength of the Church, the role of Cardinal Jaime Ortega who was so important in that dialogue between Cuba and the United States and in the midst of which he achieved that meeting between Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro , which is definitely the way forward. A path that, in my opinion, Panama will take, a path of openness, a path of economic freedoms.
At a time of following an emigration that advances towards the United States, in very, very difficult conditions…, at a time when Cuba is moving forward in an economic openness and in the debate of a new Constitution. It is a very important moment, where the Pope reaches the center of our region, Panama, to seek that convergence of you, the young people, in whose hands is the future of our countries and the world. And that is why, this experience of faith that Panama will live, I am sure that it will transform their lives, they will return with many energies, with great strength to continue working for this beautiful country, for this beautiful people, for their Catholic Church, to continue not only preaching their faith, but living with it in their daily action. And I’m sure it’s going to be a moment that you’re always going to remember. I’m going to be with you. I would like to tell you that the image of Our Lady of Copper Charity will be in the chapel of the Presidency of the Republic of Panama, so that you can visit her. I’d like to invite you to join me, let’s agree. I would like to be able to coordinate so that the Cuban delegation has in the old town, in the parish closest to the Presidency, its celebration of holy hour so that they may be with our Lady of Charity of Copper, the delegation together, and I will accompany you, God first, we will see the agenda so that we can be with you there. I want to tell you that one of the most important gifts that can be given to Pope Francis in this WYD, apart from the thousands of pilgrims who go, is a good delegation from Cuba.
What good news I take to Panama that there are 470 young Cuban pilgrims ready to travel to WYD. I am sure that when Pope Francis sees this delegation he will be very excited.
I will put in touch the young people of the Cuban Youth Pastoral with young people from the Youth Pastoral of Panama, who work in the presidency, to expand the delegation of Cuba a little more, with the help of people close to the Church. So you will be very happy to see this delegation of Cuba with energy, with faith and, above all, with the joy of the Cuban people. I mean, a WYD with almost 500 Cuban pilgrims, that’s going to be an amazing party. It’s really a blessing for me to be with you today.