Day 1: The following excerpt comes from a Jan. 22 post by Bishop Soto on

I have been in Panamá for a few days now. The atmosphere here is very Caribbean. The kaleidoscopic music, the quick staccato accent of the Spanish, and the rich racial mix of the people, all exude its interaction with the history of the Caribbean region.

It is to this vibrant city in a small Central American country that Pope Francis has convoked the Catholic youth of the world.

While the choice of this city for the 2019 gathering for World Youth Day would seem an odd location, we should take note of how strategic this little isthmus and its canal is to the global trade. Already much of the world passes through the Panamá Canal. Pope Francis may have figured it was time for the world to pause for a moment of reflection and prayer at this gateway of commerce.

Could this be a gateway for Catholic youth from around the globe to encounter one another at a deeper level than just economic interests of trade? More than an encounter between east and west, could there be an encounter between heaven and earth?

Day 2: The following excerpt comes from a Jan. 23 post by Bishop Soto on

Last night, Catholic Youth from around the world inaugurated World Youth Day (WYD) with an opening Mass presided by Archbishop of Panamá City, José Domingo Ulloa.

I arrived with a bus load of bishops. The routine for most WYDs is to bring the bishops early to the events. This procedure is accepted with resignation as “hurry-up and wait”.

The Mass began about 45 minutes late. I was seated with a group of my brother bishops from the United States. We came in together and wanted to make sure we left together. We thought we had good seats— center stage, clear view of the altar and pulpit— until the the music began. We were seated right in front of a speaker. With little exaggeration, I can say that we felt every word and note during the celebration.

Kidding aside, it was a beautiful liturgy offered in honor of Mary, Our Lady of Antigua. Archbishop Ulloa remarked that this was the first occasion that the inspiration of the Virgin Mary was the primary theme of WYD.

He compared the enthusiasm and energy of the young virgin of Nazareth to the enthusiastic, restless youth. Like Mary, only in God will they find their fulfillment of their desires and only in serving God will they find joy.