Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Saturday in the centuries-old colonial Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria la Antigua, telling Panama’s priests and nuns to try to find joy in their work despite what he called “wounds of the church’s own sin.”
He did not specify what he meant by that, but in his message, titled “The Weariness of Hope,” he encouraged members of the clergy to remain faithful despite the frustrations and anxieties of serving the church in today’s world.
“The Lord knew what it was to be tired, and in his weariness so many struggles of our nations and peoples, our communities, and all who are weary and heavily burdened can find a place,” he said.
The pope noted that the cathedral in which he spoke had recently reopened its doors after a long renovation. “This restoration has sought to preserve the beauty of the past while making room for all the newness of the present,” he said. “That is how the Lord works.”
The pope made his address as part of World Youth Day, the Catholic Church’s international youth rally held every two to three years. Several hundred people were estimated to have turned out for the pope’s Way of the Cross procession in Panama City on Friday evening, according to the Associated Press.
On the fourth day of his visit to Panama, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church was also to meet with student priests at the seminary of San Jose. He was 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 in other locations that sex scandals and cover-ups have contributed to a drop in the number of men seeking religious vocations.
On Friday, the pope went to a youth detention center, enabling the inmates to participate in World Youth Day. Francis also heard the confessions of five of the detainees.
In an emotional homily at the detention 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 Argentina-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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