The 34th edition of the World Youth Day (WYD) of the Catholic Church will be held in Panama from January 22-27, 2019. It is the third WYD that will take place in Latin America, after Buenos Aires in 1987 and Rio de Janeiro in 2013. The event is the opportunity for Panama to learn about the world and the world to learn about Panama.
WYD unifies young people from more than 190 countries every three years. It is a religious and cultural event with the aim of making the message of Christ known to the young people of today and to create an open environment to share and reflect on the fundamental issues of existence. With pilgrims hailing from around the world, WYD is also a cultural educational opportunity in addition to a religion-oriented education experience and time for reflection.
WYD Panama has been proposed by Pope Francis as an opportunity to get closer to the region, as it is the first WYD held in Central America, giving the opportunity for young people from the region to have this experience. Pope Francis, as the first Pope from the southern hemisphere and from the Americas, will preside the event, with the presence of bishops from all over the world.
The support of the government of Juan Carlos Varela has been fundamental, especially in the preparation of logistical and security aspects. The government created a commission that brings together a delegate from each of the ministries. Everything is done in close collaboration with the Church, and hopes are that WYD Panama will go down in history as an example of good practices and productive relations with the local government.
The organization of the World Youth Day will require between USD60 million and USD70 million and will generate an economic impact of USD250 million. It is expected that the country will welcome between 300,000 and 350,000 people and it is estimated the payment of an average fee per individual of USD150, which would give an income of around USD40 million. The remaining USD20-30 million is being collected separately. The WYD will also have a positive impact on hotel occupancy, since it is estimated that the hotels in the country will be 100% occupied. From the 350,000 visitors for WYD, 70,000 must be local and 280,000 international.
Panamanian educational centers will also take part in the event. The University of Panama has a WYD-UP Commission that is holding meetings with the event’s Local Organizing Committee to contemplate several projects, one of which is to integrate the students as volunteers recognizing these hours as part of their mandatory social work. It also seeks to have the participation of administrators and teachers as volunteers and host families.
Historically, Catholic education institutions have played a large role in Panama. The Universidad Católica Santa María La Antigua (USMA) is the first private university in Panama and a pillar of the Catholic community in the capital and beyond. USMA has been a leader in the education sector for 50 years, and the institution’s orientation toward youth capacity building has the school pushing technological advancement in education; 34 private tertiary institutions fill in the considerable gaps left by the five public universities.
WYD 2019 is also an opportunity for Panama to educate the world about the amazing aspects of Panama. Those involved in the preparations for the first Latin American youth day have already traveled to the isthmus to discover its beauty. In a promotional video, WYD Panama highlighted Panama City’s Biodiversity Museum to showcase opportunities to learn about the country.