FROM penance with outcast prison inmates on the edge of society to an open-air Mass with a sea of young pilgrim faces in the heart of Panama City, Pope Francis has made his mark on World Youth Day.
His message was consistent throughout World Youth Day in Panama – love with Christ’s love.
The Pope left the country following the final Mass last Sunday, but he urged all those listening to take the Gospel message home with them.
This was more difficult for those who weren’t going home.
Speaking to young detainees at a penitential liturgy in Las Garzas de Pacora Juvenile Detention Centre on the periphery of Panama, the Pope said society built an “adjective culture”.
This culture judges people good or bad instead of building a relationship with them, Pope Francis said.
“Gossipers are not interested (in the person),” he said.
“They quickly seek to put a label to get them out of the way.
“The adjective culture belittles the person.”
One of the young inmates, Luis Oscar Martinez, explained to the Pope his story of arrest and transfer to the prison, but he also said something told him it wasn’t over.
“In that moment, I understood that God, my father, was with me,” Mr Martinez said.
“And if I am talking to you right now, it is because of the grace and love of God and my beloved Christ.”
The young man told the Pope of his dream to become an international chef someday.
“I would like to thank you because, as a servant of the Lord Jesus, you took the time to listen to a poor person deprived of freedom like myself,” Mr Martinez said.
“There are no words to describe the freedom I feel at this moment.
“Thank you for that.”
During the penitential liturgy, the Pope listened to five inmates’ confessions in a small tent set up outside the prison.
At another WYD event, the Way of the Cross, Pope Francis said the road to Calvary was “a way of suffering and solitude” that was “prolonged in a society that has lost the ability to weep and to be moved by suffering”.
The event was quiet and reflective as cheers for the Pope gave way to silence and prayer.
It was a chance for the young pilgrims to engage with the solemnity of Christ.
The Pope told the pilgrims Jesus “walks and suffers in all those faces hurt by the complacent and anesthetising indifference of our society that consumes and is consumed, that ignores and is ignorant, blind to the pain of our brothers and sisters”.
“How easy it is to fall into a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation,” he said.
“It is not like that for you, Lord: On the cross, you identified yourself with all those who suffer, with all those who feel forgotten.”
The sufferers and the forgotten were at the core of Pope Francis’ homily at a Mass for the clergy and laity the next day, addressing the child sex abuse crisis.
He told those gathered that a weariness of hope called into question the energy, resources and possibility of the Christian mission to change and challenge the world.
“The weariness of hope comes from seeing a church wounded by sin, which so often failed to hear all those cries that echoed the cry of the Master: ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’” Pope Francis said.
The Pope said Christians needed to quench their parched hope by returning to the “deep well of our first love, when Jesus passed our way, gazed at us with mercy and asked us to follow him”.