Pope Francis to Meet Student Priests in Panama

Pope Francis celebrates Mass Saturday in the centuries-old colonial Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria la Antigua, Panama’s patron saint, as part of World Youth Day festivities.

On the fourth day of his visit to Panama, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church is also to meet with student priests at the seminary of San Jose. He is expected to talk with the young men about the dwindling number of men entering the priesthood and the reasons for the declining numbers. 

Francis has admitted elsewhere that the sex scandals and cover-ups have contributed to fewer men seeking religious vocations.

Later Saturday, Francis and the Archbishop of Panama, Cardinal Jose Domingo Ulloa, are hosting a lunch for 10 young people attending the WYD celebrations.

On Friday, the pope went to a youth detention center, enabling the inmates to participate in WYD. Francis also heard the confessions of the five of the detainees.

In an emotional homily at the center, Francis said he deplored society’s tendency to label people as good or bad, the righteous or sinners. Instead, he said, society should focus on creating opportunities that enable people to change.

In a veiled swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump and his insistence on a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the Argentinean-born pope said of the tendency to label: “This attitude spoils everything, because it erects an invisible wall that makes people think that, if we marginalize, separate and isolate others, all our problems will magically be solved.” Francis added, “When a society or community allows this, and does nothing more than complain and backbite, it enters into a vicious circle of division, blame and condemnation.”

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