Pope Francis will be in Central America for five days.
Pope Francis identified irrational panic over the arrival of migrants as he flew towards a five-day long visit to Central America. He said this during a January 23 interview with a journalist on-board the papal plane. According to the pontiff, an unease about migrants comes from a fear which drives people crazy. The pope is scheduled to visit Panama from January 23 to January 27 for the World Youth Day triennial celebrations.
Pope Francis is the first pope from Latin America to head the Roman Catholic Church. The issue of migrants is close to his heart as Francis himself is the son of Italian immigrants. His parents came on a ship to Argentina and opted to stay in the country.
The pontiff has made the problems of refugees and migrants an important element of his papacy. He also offered encouragement to young individuals who have gathered in Panama to attend World Youth Day. The event, held once every three years, is meant to refresh the next generation of Catholics on matters of faith.
Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa of Panama said the pope’s message would probably find traction with the younger generation of Central Americans who believe the only way to escape violence is to settle in the United States. He said that young Central Americans get trapped in the snare of drug traffickers and other criminals which many young people encounter in their lives. It is expected Francis will encourage the young to start improving themselves and ask the government to do their respective tasks.
For international observers, it has not escaped notice that the Government of the United States remains in part shut down due to a tussle between the Trump-led administration and the Democrats. The contentious issue is funding the Trump-pledged border wall. The pope became popular for requesting “bridges, not walls.” After completing a Mass in 2016 on the Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexican border, he denounced everyone who wanted to construct a wall to bar migrants. Francis even called out such activities as “not Christian.”
It is expected the crowds to the venue will be thinner this time. Only 150,000 individuals have registered for the event as of the second week of January. Thousands, however, are anticipated to attend the pope’s principal events, including a final mass and vigil on Sunday.