His Excellency Mr. Juan Carlos Varela, President of the Republic of Panama:
The prophet Isaiah proclaims, “How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news…”
The prophet’s message is an embassy of comfort and hope to the people who live in the slavery of exile and which is realized in the proclamation of a person who becomes God’s historical closeness to his people. Israel, throughout history, identified some characters with this good news messenger. And the Christian faith is fully fulfilled by the promise of the Old Testament in Jesus Christ and in all those who, in His name, become like Him builders of bridges and peace.
The seat of this Archbishopric of Havana is today filled with joy and excitement upon receiving you. His homeland, by natural vocation and design of Divine Providence, is a bridge that unersies continents and people. You and your governance have been faithful to this inspiration, and our Cuban Homeland and our Church have much to thank. In Panama on April 11, 2015, Cuban and American presidents first shon hands in more than fifty years, starting a path of unpublished dialogue so far. His administration and the generosity of the Panamanian people were essential in resolving the migratory drama of many Cuban families stranded on the isthmus. For these very important gestures for Cuba, thank you very much, Mr President.
There is much joy, hope and enthusiasm this afternoon and to a large extent it is also due to the generosity of his government, his entire people and the Church that pilgrims in Panama. From 22 to 27 January the Universal Church will have its young heart in Panama City with the celebration of the Thirty-fourth World Youth Day presided over by our beloved Pope Francis. We know well, Mr. President, of the efforts that you personally and your entire team have put into the preparation of this magnificent event and in a special way in facilitating the processes so that a large Cuban delegation can participate in it. These young people who meet this afternoon here are concrete faces of the 471 delegates from Cuba to WYD. This participation marks a historic milestone in Cuba’s presence in global Church meetings. The previous Day with very significant participation was that of 2002 in Toronto with 200 delegates. On this occasion the dream expressed by our Pope Francis is fulfilled when he said “For many young Cubans to participate…”. This has been thanks to the efforts of many Cuban families, inside and outside the island who have financially supported their children, thanks to the support of sister churches and thanks to the management facilities that their government, through the Embassy and Consulate of the Republic of Panama in Cuba, has had for us. For many of our pilgrims it will be the first time they have visited a land other than the one that saw them born. This also causes hope and illusion because it means long horizons and found lives that from faith build the inner man in the encounter with fellows of other cultures, his ways of seeing life and of living and expressing faith in Jesus Christ, the only Savior of all mankind who yearns for a united and peaceful world. In this way, Cuba’s participation in this WYD Panama 2019 also becomes a sign of hope, communion and peace between peoples, peoples and nations.
We hope that through you I also received our gratitude to Msgr. José Domingo Ulloa and all the volunteers, already friends, who from the local organizing committee make it possible for the good news prophesied by Isaiah to be fulfilled.
Our young people want to speak to you, to express your gratitude, to bear witness to your prayer for you, your family, your collaborators and all our dear and brother people of Panama.
Our José Martí wrote: I grow a white rose in July as in January for the sincere friend who gives me his frank hand. They would not reach this afternoon the roses of a rose bush to shake the hands of those who have treated us as such an endearing friend. Again, thank you very much, Mr President.