Pope in Panama to visit young offenders in prison

28/01/19 05:28 PM By Nico

Pope Francis will briefly break away from the clamor of the global Catholic youth gathering in Panama on Friday to visit a group of marginalized young people outside the capital.

A 30-minute helicopter ride will take him to the industrial hub of Pacora, where he will visit young offenders at a youth detention center and hear their confessions, including one serving time for murder.

The Las Garzas detention center houses 192 young offenders and it was here that some 30 of them made the wooden confession boxes being used at the Garden of Forgiveness in Panama as part of the World Youth Day celebrations, which brought the pope here.

"I will tell him that I painted it with a lot of tenderness and especially for him. I'm proud that he is coming to this place to spread his message," one young inmate at the center, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside Panama City, told AFP in November.

Later in the afternoon, the pope will accompany young people at a Stations of the Cross ceremony in a Panama park overlooking the Pacific.

'Fears and suspicions'

On Thursday, the first full day of his five-day visit, the pope hit out at the treatment of migrants, saying the Church must work to overcome the world's "fears and suspicions" of migration.

Speaking from the heart of Central America -- the hub for US-bound migrants -- Francis said migrants were simply seeking "the minimum conditions for a better future."

Earlier, in a speech to government ministers and members of the diplomatic corps at the foreign ministry, he called on political leaders to reject "all forms of corruption."

Young people, he said, insisted that those in positions of authority should "lead a life that demonstrates that public service is a synonym of honesty and justice, and opposed to all forms of corruption."

He also deplored what he called "the plague" of femicide in Latin America, where some 2,800 women are killed each year, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

--Rock star welcome-

On Thursday evening, tens of thousands of young people gave the pope a rock-star welcome to the Catholic jamboree at a palm-fringed park overlooking Panama Bay.

"We want to tell you not to be afraid," the pope said, urging them instead to go forward with "fresh energy and restlessness".

The idea was not to create "a parallel Church that would be more 'fun' or 'cool' thanks to a fancy youth event," he said. But instead, the "constant freshness and youth" should be used in "service to our brothers and sisters, and concrete service at that."

The pope is being kept abreast of developments in Caracas, and was praying for the people of Venezuela, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said. Francis is supporting "all efforts" to avoid further suffering for the population, he said.

Source: Agence France Presse

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