Over 150,000 young people are converging on Panama City, Panama, following Pope Francis’s arrival for World Youth Day from January 23-27.
Another 144 youth who can’t attend the event, as they’ve been locked up for serious crimes including murder, will experience a more intimate meeting when the Pontiff visits their penitentiary, according to The Washington Post.
During a visit expected to last an hour, the Pope will bring a message of peace and reconciliation to the young inmates, and hear the confessions of several, including one convicted of committing a double homicide at just 16-years-old.
“The Pope is going to listen to them, encourage them,” Panama Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa said. “They have been preparing with high hopes to be able to receive his message.”
Pope Francis, who flew into Panama yesterday, regularly makes side visits to prisons during his foreign trips, in keeping with his belief that even those on the lowest rungs of society have dignity and need ministry, reports The Washington Post. However, this will be the first time he hears confessions in a prison.
Panama has been preparing for the Pope’s arrival for over two years and while the main purpose of the Pontiff’s visit is to take part in World Youth Day 2019, regional problems, migration, the fight against corruption and violence, and the role of women will also be a focus, according to Crux.
The Pope is expected to deliver seven speeches and celebrate two masses. The two main World Youth Day events will be a Way of the Cross held at the Cinta Costera and a mass held at the Metro Park in Panama City.
Following the closing mass for World Youth Day, on Saturday 26 January, Pope Francis will visit the Good Samaritan Home, a centre dedicated to helping HIV and AIDS patients regardless of their sex, religion, and sexual orientation.
The Pope will arrive back at the Vatican on Monday and already has a number of other foreign trips scheduled for 2019, including a visit to the United Arab Emirates in February and Morocco in March.