"You're no one's backyard," said the head of the Catholic Church in his first day visiting Panama.
Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, paraphrased the liberator Simon Bolivar in his first speech in Panama Thursday and expressed his wish to unify the ‘Patria Grande’ (Great Homeland) in Latin America, respecting its different peoples and multiculturalism.
“I start my peregrination in this historical place where Simon Bolivar, as the president has recalled, affirmed that ‘if the world had to choose its capital, the Isthmus of Panama would be pointed for this prestigious destiny,’ and called for the leaders of his time to build the dream for the unification of the Patria Grande,” said Pope Francis at the Bolivar Palace during his first speech in Panama after meeting with President Juan Carlos Varela, authorities and civil society groups.
The quoted phrase is contained in the Jamaica Letter, written by Bolivar in 1815, which highlights the Central American region’s geopolitical importance for the Great Homeland project.
“A call that helps us understand that our peoples are capable of creating, forging and, above all, dreaming a great homeland that is able to shelter, respect, and embrace the multicultural value of every people and culture,” Pope Francis continued. “Following this inspiration we can look at Panama as a land of convening and dreams.”
The Pope is participating in the World Youth Day events in Panama and will be present in the Latin American country until Jan. 27. He met with President Varela and the diplomatic representation only a few hours before the first speech.
He also spoke about the importance of social participation in every activity in Panama, calling for everyone’s decision, commitment and daily work so every citizen could feel itself “actors of their own destiny, family, and the whole nation.” Social participation, he said, is the best antidote against any authority that pretends to restrict liberty and submit dignity.
During his second speech, addressed at the youth, he spoke of contemporary world issues, such as migration, and their responsibility in society.
“Many of the migrants have a young face. They search for a greater good for their families. They don’t fear risks and leave everything hoping to offer a minimum of conditions that guarantee a better future,” he said.
“The day of tomorrow demands respecting the present by dignifying and insisting on valuing the cultures of your peoples. Dignity is also at stake in cultural self-esteem. Your peoples are not society’s ‘backyard’ or no one’s. You have a rich history that must be assumed, valued and encouraged,” he said to the youth.
The pope highlighted that new generations must claim dignity and honesty from adults, especially those who are the authority, who must carry a life that’s “synonymous with honesty and the opposite of any form of corruption.”
“It’s only possible to defend the common wellbeing over the interests of a few if there’s the firm decision to share one’s own goods fairly,” he continued.
He also spoke extensively about the Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered in 1980 as he was holding a mass and was recently declared a saint, paraphrasing a comment he did in 1978 about the role of the Church.
“Dear brothers, this is the glory of the Church: carrying inside of it all of Christ’s kenosis. Christ lives among us in Church and that’s why it must be humble and poor, because an arrogant Church, a Church full of pride, a self-sufficient Church, is not the Church of the kenosis,” said Pope Francis.
The head of the Church is expected to meet about 80 bishops at the Bolivar Palace, where the Latin American liberator summoned the Amphictyonic Congress hoping to unite the continent in a sole Great Homeland.