Pope Francis Addresses Immigration Issues During World Youth Day in Panama (in Photos)

The Catholic Church's youth rally has drawn 200,000 pilgrims from around the world to Panama City.
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Pope Francis arrived in Panama on Wednesday, January 23rd, for World Youth Day 2019. The Catholic Church's youth rally, which is being held in Central America for the first time, has drawn 200,000 pilgrims from around the world to Panama City. It will culminate with an overnight prayer vigil and Mass from Saturday, January 26th, to Sunday, January 27th.

Pope John Paul II created World Youth Day in 1985 in an effort to harness youthful energy and encourage young people to participate in his New Evangelization movement. Francis sees youth as key to understanding the state of society, according to Vatican News.

Francis, the first Latin American pope, has made immigration issues a cornerstone of his leadership. In a speech to Central American bishops on Thursday, he encouraged them to welcome migrants into their church communities and, in doing so, to set an example for society to overcome its fear of foreigners, NBC News reports. Francis also responded to the unrest in Venezuela, offering prayers to save the population from additional suffering. But he pointed to the celebration's host country of Panama as a symbol for the potential to fight these divisions in society.

"A bridge between oceans and a natural land of encounter, Panama, the narrowest country of the entire American continent, is the symbol of the sustainability born of the ability to create bonds and alliances," Francis said in his remarks to Panamanian leadership, according to the Catholic World Report.

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Pilgrims confess at the Youth Park in Panama City on the eve of the arrival of Pope Francis for World Youth Day, on January 22nd, 2019.

Pilgrims confess at the Youth Park in Panama City on the eve of the arrival of Pope Francis for World Youth Day, on January 22nd, 2019.

Pope Francis walks down the steps of the plane upon landing at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City on January 23rd, 2019.

Pope Francis walks down the steps of the plane upon landing at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City on January 23rd, 2019.

Pilgrims wait for the arrival of Pope Francis for his welcoming ceremony at Campo Santa Maria La Antigua in Panama City during World Youth Day on Thursday, January 24th, 2019.

Pilgrims wait for the arrival of Pope Francis for his welcoming ceremony at Campo Santa Maria La Antigua in Panama City during World Youth Day on Thursday, January 24th, 2019.

Pope Francis and Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela are pictured at Las Garzas Presidential Palace in Panama City on January 24th, 2019.

Pope Francis and Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela are pictured at Las Garzas Presidential Palace in Panama City on January 24th, 2019.

Crowds watch as Pope Francis takes part in the welcome ceremony at the Campo Santa Maria La Antigua in Panama City during World Youth Day on January 24th, 2019.

Crowds watch as Pope Francis takes part in the welcome ceremony at the Campo Santa Maria La Antigua in Panama City during World Youth Day on January 24th, 2019.

Pope Francis attends a meeting with Central American bishops at the San Francisco de Asis church in Panama City on January 24th, 2019.

Pope Francis attends a meeting with Central American bishops at the San Francisco de Asis church in Panama City on January 24th, 2019.

A pilgrim carries a Panamanian flag as he walks through the streets of Panama City during World Youth Day on January 24th, 2019.

A pilgrim carries a Panamanian flag as he walks through the streets of Panama City during World Youth Day on January 24th, 2019.

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