By Robin Gomes / Vatican News

Jan 25 : An Indian delegation of some 56 young people is in Panama City to celebrate the Catholic Church’s 34th World Youth Day (WYD) with Pope Francis.

The young pilgrims from across India landed in Panama on Jan. 15 and were hosted in the parish of Atalaya in the Diocese of Santiago de Veraguas, for the preliminary “Days in the Dioceses” events of the WYD.

They are accompanied by 9 priests, a nun, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Pandarasseril of Kottayam and Father Deepak Thomas, executive secretary of the Youth Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI).

Fr Thomas told AsiaNews that they took part in spiritual, cultural and social initiatives.

During a Eucharistic celebration on 17 January, the Indian delegation demonstrated the culture of their country.

The next day they dedicated themselves to mission and sharing tourism, including planting trees in response to the “green” exhortation of Pope Francis in his encyclical, “Laudato Si”.

Over the weekend they celebrated sports and the f amily , and joined children and Bishop Audilio Aguilar Aguilar of Santiago de Veraguas on a pilgrimage from the chapel of St Anthony to Atalaya.

Panamanian hospitality

Nadine Pereira, one of the Indian participants, spoke to AsiaNews about the warmth with which they were received at Atalaya. She said the welcome they received with dance and music on arrival at Atalaya at midnight, made them forget the fatigue of their 20-hour flight and a 4-hour bus ride to their hosts.

Each family in Atalaya hosted two Indians for the “Days in the Dioceses”.

Another Indian, Rinita Juliana Francis, spoke about young pilgrims from other countries at the parish of St John the Evangelist Church.

Dressed in their traditional costumes, “Hundreds of pilgrims waved their national flags and danced to the beat of the drums played by Panamanian soldiers.” “As the evening progressed,” she noted, “pilgrims sang songs of praise and worship and danced to music from the Mauritius, Colombia, Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, India” with participants from “each nation putting on a grand show”.

Francis expressed appreciation for the Panamanians saying they are a “hospitable, emotional and generous people”. They are proud of their culture and tradition, especially Spanish music. “The way the singers and the people participate in the Holy Eucharist is amazing,” she added.

In Panama City, the Indian youth are guests at the Church of Santa Eduviges. (Source: AsiaNews)

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