POPE Francis has signed up to pray with an expected 500,000 young people, including pilgrims from Brisbane, for the 2019 World Youth Day in Panama.
While Pope Francis registered for the youth gathering after praying the Angelus on February 11, 2018, the Holy See only confirmed his presence in Panama on July 9.
The Pope will arrive in Panama on the second day of World Youth Day, January 23, and remain in the country until the end of the event.
Pope Francis was previously unsure if he would attend the World Youth Day in Panama, having hinted at a Rome vigil service in April last year that his age might keep him from making the trip.
“At my age, we (old people) are about to pass away,” the Pope teased the crowd at St Mary Major basilica on April 8, 2017.
“I don’t know if it will be me, but the pope will be in Panama and he will ask you, ‘Did you speak with your elders?’”
This will be the third World Youth Day Pope Francis has attended.
World Youth Day will run from January 22 to 27 in Panama.
It is the first time the World Youth Day has been hosted in Central America.
Organisers for the upcoming World Youth Day are expecting a smaller number of pilgrims than at previous events.
In 2013 an estimated 3.7 million young people made the pilgrimage to the Rio World Youth Day, and another 2.4 million travelled to Krakow in 2016.
About 400,000 pilgrims travelled to Randwick Racecourse for the official closing Mass with Pope Benedict XVI for the Sydney World Youth Day in July 2008.
Last week WYD organisers released the English version of the World Youth Day song, titled Here I am, Servant of the Lord, or Hágase en mi Según tu Palabra in Spanish.
The official Spanish version of the song, which was released last year, was translated by Ballarat priest Fr Rob Galea and released on July 4 in English-speaking countries.
The song has also been translated and recorded in French, Italian and Portuguese.
Fr Galea sings on the English version with Australian music couple Natasha Pinto and Gary Pinto, who sang on the official Sydney World Youth Day song.
The opening verse of the 2019 WYD song is: “As your pilgrim people we are gathered here today, from every continent and city, longing to be true servants of the Lord, proclaiming your word to every nation. Teach us to say Yes, as Mary did that day, that your will be done as in heaven.”
WYD Panama 2019 artistic director Deacon Pedro Guevara Mann said World Youth Day was an important world event.
“World Youth Day is an international and multi-lingual event, so the theme song will be sung in several languages because we cannot forget that although most of the pilgrims are expected to be Spanish speakers, many also will be Portuguese, English, Italian and French speakers,” he said.
The theme for the 2019 World Youth Day is taken from the Gospel of Luke 1:38, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”