The Latest: Pope challenged on sex abuse by young people

PANAMA CITY (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis’ visit to Panama (all times local):

3:20 p.m.

Young people have challenged Pope Francis on the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal and the plight of Christians in the Middle East as the youth take center stage in the final events of World Youth Day in Panama.

Francis lunched Saturday with 10 young pilgrims from around the world who are attending the religious rally. The Vatican described the atmosphere as familiar and festive, and the young people said they were surprised at Francis’ informality and interest in their questions.

Brenda Noriega was born in Mexico and lives now in San Bernardino, California. She said she told Francis that the sex abuse scandal was a “crisis we can’t avoid talking about.” She said Francis assured her that the church was committed to supporting victims.

Young people are expected to be protagonists as well later Saturday during World Youth Day’s final vigil.


10:15 a.m.

Pope Francis is seeking to inspire Panama’s priests and religious sisters as he acknowledges that they may have grown weary from the burdens of their work and the “wounds of the church’s own sin.”

Francis celebrated Mass on Saturday in Panama City’s main cathedral, Santa Maria la Antigua basilica. The Mass served to formally reopen and consecrate the church’s altar after a yearslong renovation.

In his homily, Francis spoke frankly about the pressures, frustrations and anxieties facing priests and nuns in a rapidly changing world where he said it sometimes seems the Catholic message has no place. The pope warned that such anxieties can sometimes be paralyzing, but he urged them to recapture the joy and faith that inspired them originally.

Francis celebrated the Mass at the half-way point of his four-day visit to Panama for the church’s World Youth Day.


9:15 a.m.

Bells are tolling in Panama City’s historic center as Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass at the city’s main cathedral.

At the halfway mark of his four-day visit, Francis will dedicate the new altar of the Santa Maria la Antigua basilica during Saturday’s Mass and then have lunch with youths in town for World Youth Day. In the evening he’ll celebrate an open-air vigil service, one of the mainstays of the Catholic Church’s youth festival.

During the Mass, Francis will be seeking to inspire Panama’s priests and religious sisters — after having sought to inspire Central America’s bishops, politicians and even its young prisoners.

Pilgrims lined the route of Francis’ open-sided popemobile as it wound its way through the narrow streets of the Casco Viejo old town, a UNESCO world heritage site.


1 a.m.

Pope Francis has sought to inspire Panama’s young people, its prisoners, its politicians and its bishops. On Saturday he turns his attention to the country’s priests and religious sisters as he reaches the midway point in his Central American visit.

Francis will celebrate Mass in the Santa Maria La Antigua cathedral in the old section of Panama City with the country’s priests and nuns. Later he’ll preside over the final vigil before World Youth Day’s culminating Mass on Sunday.

On Friday, Francis brought World Youth Day to Panama’s juvenile delinquents, celebrating an emotional penitential liturgy inside the country’s main youth prison since the inmates couldn’t participate in the Catholic Church’s big festival of faith outside.

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