Franciscans, Laudato si’ and WYD

I. Conference: Cardinal Turkson and John Paul II Foundation


Answering Pope Francis’ ecological conversion challenge


PANAMA CITY, 19 January 2019 – Just before World Youth Day begins, youth, Franciscan brothers, intellectuals and politicians gathered at the Third International Congress of the Care of Creation: Ecological Conversion of Action at the University of Santa Maria La Antigua.

At the conference, the participants learnt more about Laudato si’, refocused our minds towards those who are most vulnerable to climate change, and catalysed the youth to talk about actions that have worked, or they are working on in their own countries.

Laudato si’s focus was centered on action. The encyclical calls Catholics to humbly listen and witness the ecological injustice that is happening today and assess how to act on it. A few examples that Cardinal Peter Turkson talked about were divestment from fossil fuel companies, lobbying with industry leaders that pollute our planet, and finally, go back to our homes to start ecological clubs.

Action must go well beyond setting meetings and attending conferences. We also need to divest from fossil fuel companies. We need to develop our economy without forgetting those who are vulnerable to climate change such as the poor, women and children. We cannot profit from the misery of the environment.

Overall, staying true to the theme of World Youth Day Panama, “I am Your servant, let it be done to me according to Your will,” World Youth Day is a prime opportunity to spark action on environmental issues. It is also a prime opportunity to call on our church leaders for pertinent and practical support.


II. Retreat: Parque Natural Metropolitano, Franciscans, and WYD


One with nature, one for Laudato si’


PANAMA CITY – On Sunday 20 January 2019, the Laudato si’ volunteers reconnected with nature at Parque Natural Metropolitano to understand integral ecology and individually examine what is most important in life. The Global Catholic Climate Movement together with the Order of Friars Minor for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (OFM JPIC) communed a group of volunteers and led the theological conversations regarding our common home.

Feeling the breeze of the wind, the youth and Franciscans walked among the trees and animals that freely inhabit the park. Most interestingly, the volunteers also basked in the juxtaposition of nature being nestled within a bus city. Through group exhortations, we were reminded of the importance of turning off once in a while and enjoying what God has created for us.

During the retreat, the volunteers were asked when was the last time they encountered God through nature. When have we stopped to deliberately be in silence? When was the last time we reflected on the impact of human activity to a tranquil nature?

Volunteers and Franciscan brothers alike examined the encyclical Laudato si’ for phrases that spoke to our being. One volunteer shared about how today’s throwaway culture pervades our daily lives to be more consumerist and how as Catholics, Pope Francis calls us to re-evaluate for the sake of the poor and vulnerable to climate change.


III. Workshops: Scientific perspective, Social Teaching of the Church and Spirituality: Testimonies of Laudato si’ Animators from different countries


Humanising Laudato si’


PANAMA CITY – As Pope Francis constantly reminded us, the youth is the future of the world and are the ones responsible for mobilising action to solve our environmental crises. Therefore, Global Catholic Climate Movement together with the Order of Friars Minor for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (OFM JPIC) held workshops to explain climate science and humanise climate action around the globe.

The day started with presentations that explain the adverse effects of the world’s consumeristic ways and dependence on an unsustainable economic system. Igor Bastos from the Global Catholic Climate Movement explained the paradox of today’s society showing the need to acquire more worldly riches despite the fact that more than half of the world are impoverished and risk losing their land due to climate change. Additionally, Fr. German Argueta OFM from El Salvador said that “when we disrespect for the Earth, we disrespect the humanity.” Thus, it is vital that recognising who are the victims of environmental degradation in order to humanise climate change.

In the afternoon, we heard from a panel of youth who taken up Pope Francis’ call to action in their local regions. Ana Belen from Ecuador shared an anecdote of how important the work of the church is in protecting the Amazonian communities. When a construction of a hydroelectric plant risked their communities, the church started petitions and met with important people to highlight the illegality and immorality of such plans.

Maria Agustina Rodriguez Ortiz de Rosas from Argentina also shared a personal encounter of a health problem triggered by air pollution. Upon developing a throat tumour, she was urged to further work with the Sisters of Charity to spread the Laudato si’ message and make eco-friendly choices in her daily life such as change soaps.

Overall, the common message for Dayana Bano of Ecuador, Tatiana Rodriguez of Colombia and Jose Abad Saenz of Costa Rica was the need to grow a network of Catholics who are committed to climate action. “As Catholics, we have the obligation to follow the Gospel. If God gave us the earth, we need to use the resources sustainably. If we want change, we cannot exclude anyone,” says Abad-Saenz.

Finally, to close the day, the Franciscan friars celebrated mass at the Laudato si’ village. The volunteers were given a blessing in preparation for the World Youth Day as agents of our mission to care for our common home.


IV. Bringing Laudato si’ to the world


PANAMA CITY, 22 January 2019 – World Youth Day officially starts today. The Laudato si’ volunteers along with the Franciscan brothers have been given their duties to bring Pope Francis’ message to the world.

Starting the day with laudes, the volunteers were guided to meditate on our service and frame our minds to focus on our mission at World Youth Day. Then, the volunteers were briefed on our duties, equipped with our materials and prepared our spaces.

Laudato si’ will be celebrated in three zones: Parque Omar, Colegio Internacional Maria Inmaculada and various Youth Festival stages.  Through these exhibitions, pilgrims will be encouraged to commit to living Laudato si’and start conversations on ecological conversion to recognise God in creation in their own countries.

Today, the volunteers based in Parque Omar led pilgrims to pray the rosary using recycled tyres and prepared the space for pilgrims to enjoy an art exhibition. Pilgrims were happy to charge their cellphones using solar energy through our charging booths. Likewise, the volunteers of Colegio Internacional Maria Inmaculada prepared the Laudato si’ village where pilgrims could meditate and learn more about the encyclical.

The volunteers and friars finished the day just as how we started it – praising the Lord. Together with other World Youth Day volunteers and pilgrims, the day was closed by celebrating mass with the Archbishop of Panama, Monsignor Jose Domingo Ulloa at Cinta Costera. In his homily, the Monsignor Ulloa welcomed the pilgrims and focussed on the need to take advantage of World Youth Day to catalyse youth action on climate change.


Text by: Dewy Sacayan