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The Latest: Pope departs for Rome, ending Panama visit

January 27, 2019
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Pope Francis waves goodbye as he prepares to depart after a five-day visit to Panama, at Tocumen Airport in Panama City, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. At right is Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

PANAMA CITY (AP) — The latest on Pope Francis’ visit to Panama and World Youth Day (all times local):

6:35 p.m.

Pope Francis has left Panama, concluding his visit to the Central American nation for World Youth Day 2019.

President Juan Carlos Varela and first lady Lorena Castillo were on hand to bid the pontiff farewell at Tocumen International Airport in a red carpet tarmac ceremony Sunday.

As the shadows grew long, a white-uniformed band played Panama’s national anthem and the pontiff stood with the first couple underneath a canopy. Onlookers waved Panamanian flags.

The Avianca-liveried jet took off Sunday evening bound for Rome, where Francis will prepare for another trip next weekend to Abu Dhabi, the first by a pope to the Arabian Peninsula.

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5:15 p.m.

Pope Francis is urging young volunteers at World Youth Day 2019 to go forth and bear witness of their experience.

The pontiff says they should let others know “with simple and ordinary gestures, those that transform and renew each hour of the day.”

He also has thanked each one for “the service they have performed during these days and in the last months” ahead of the event. He adds, “Now you know how our hearts beat faster when we have a mission.”

Francis remarks came at Panama City’s Rommel Fernandez Stadium on Sunday during his last public event before flying back to Rome.

He was greeted at the stadium by shouts of “This is the youth of the pope!”

Francis also heard the testimonies of several young volunteers, and young performers put on song and dance numbers on the stage.

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2 p.m.

It’s not all work and no play for Vatican officials on Pope Francis’ trip to Panama.

Vatican communications coordinator Andrea Tornielli writes that Cardinal Pietro Parolin made a quick trip to the country’s interoceanic canal on Saturday.

At the invitation of canal authorities, he sat at a control station and opened one of the locks with the click of a mouse to open the way for a cruise ship to enter the Pacific Ocean.

Tornielli reports that Parolin smiled and joked: “Let’s hope no damage was done!”

Parolin is the Vatican’s secretary of state.

The Panama Canal is the Central American nation’s No. 1 tourist draw and a major contributor to the country’s economy.

It was inaugurated in 1914 and underwent a $5.25 billion expansion that opened in 2016 to accommodate larger cargo vessels.

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11:50 a.m.

Pope Francis has paid tribute to 21 people killed by a car bombing of a Colombian police academy on Jan. 17.

Francis read aloud the names of the cadets at the end of his visit to Panama on Sunday while visiting a home for people suffering HIV. After he spoke each name, the residents of the home intoned “present” in a sign of solidarity.

Francis prayed for the cadets to rest in peace and for Colombia as a whole to find peace. He denounced that the cadets had been “assassinated” by “terrorists.”

The National Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the car bombing, saying that the attack against a military installation was a legitimate response to the armed forces’ bombing of a guerrilla camp during a recent unilateral ceasefire.

Francis visited Colombia in 2017 in a bid to encourage an end to Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict.

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9:50 a.m.

The Roman Catholic Church’s next World Youth Day will take place in Lisbon, Portugal.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s laity office, announced the venue at the end of the Panamanian edition of the youth festival on Sunday. A dozen young people draped in Portuguese flags jumped in joy on the altar after the announcement.

Usually the location of the next World Youth Day is a tightly kept secret. But Lisbon leaked out last month in Catholic media, and the Portuguese president was on hand in Panama for the formal announcement.

World Youth Days typically draw hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world, travelling in parish groups or alone. St. John Paul II launched the once-every-three-year festivals as a way to energize the next generation of Catholics in their faith.

While Farrell didn’t announce the date, the rally is expected in 2022.

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9:10 a.m.

Pope Francis is urging young Catholics to seize the day and not wait until some far-off future to make their dreams come true.

Francis offered a message of hope and opportunity Sunday as he formally closed out World Youth Day in Panama before a crowd the Vatican estimated at 700,000, including presidents from across Central America.

History’s first Latin American pope has sought to encourage young Catholics to be protagonists in the church, famously telling Argentine pilgrims at his first World Youth Day, in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, to “make a mess” and shake up their sacristies.

He continued that message Sunday by telling youths in Panama to not keep quiet and wait to be called to act.

He said: “You, dear people, are not the future but the now of God.”

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8:15 a.m.

Pope Francis is celebrating an early morning Mass for several hundred thousand young people who camped out in a Panama City field to be in place for the climax of World Youth Day.

The Vatican quoted organizers as saying some 700,000 people were on hand for the Sunday Mass, including the presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Portugal.

Most of the pilgrims had attended an evening vigil Saturday and camped out under the stars at the field, which was renamed John Paul II field after the Polish pope who visited Panama in 1983.

Pilgrim Sawadogo Kiswensidad came to Panama from Burkina Faso and was on hand to see Francis. Kiswensidad said: “Our trip (from Burkina) was very long but it was worth it because we came here to Panama City because of our faith, our Christian faith.”

The Mass marks the formal end to World Youth Day, the once-every-three year religious festival that John Paul launched during his quarter-century pontificate.

After Mass, Francis was heading to visit with AIDS patients before returning to Rome.

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1 a.m.

Pope Francis is wrapping up his first trip to Central America with a final World Youth Day Mass and a visit to a church-run home for people living with AIDS.

Francis meets Sunday with HIV-positive residents of the Casa Hogar El Buen Samaritano is likely to send a strong message in Panama, where the virus carries a stigma.

He’ll be heading to the home after celebrating a morning Mass for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at Panama City’s Metropark area. It’s scheduled early so the pilgrims can escape the searing heat and start making their way home after a weeklong religious festival.