The Panamanian Government today confirmed the participation of the presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Portugal in the World Youth Day (WYD), which will be held in the country starting on January 22 and which Pope Francis will attend.
"We wanted to invite the presidents of Central America because the World Youth Day (WYD) is a celebration for Central America that takes place in Panama", Panamanian Deputy Foreign Minister Luis Miguel Hincapié told in a press conference.
Panama will host, between January 22 and 27, 2019, the WYD, one of the most important events of the Catholic Church, which every three years brings together thousands of young people from all over the world with the Pope.
The visit of Francis, who will arrive in Panama on January 23 and will leave on the 27th, has generated an immense interest not only in this country but throughout Central America, since the last pontiff who traveled to the region was John Paul II in 1983 and 1996.
"We do not foresee that there will be bilateral meetings (between the Panamanian president, Juan Carlos Varela, and the attending heads of state) because the presidents are invited to the final mass and we think that they will arrive on Saturday night or on Sunday", said the deputy minister.
Pope Francis' agenda includes mass masses and meetings with the Panamanian Government and the Central American bishopric, as well as visits to a prison for young people and a social shelter run by the Church.
Hincapié indicated that the first lady of Poland, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, whose country hosted the last edition of WYD, attended by more than 1.6 million pilgrims, will also attend the religious meeting.
The Panamanian Episcopal Conference reported in November that there are already 226,000 registered pilgrims and about 5,000 accredited journalists.
The Panamanian Government estimates that WYD will generate US$ 250 million in revenue and, although it has not officially reported on the costs, different local media suggest that the event will demand at least US$ 47 million.