Their bright yellow shirts lit up the streets of Panama, and their bright smiles lightened many a pilgrim’s burden. And on Sunday, Pope Francis gave them his heartfelt thanks for their hard work.
The 20,000 local Panamanians and 2,200-plus international volunteers spent the week lending a helping hand to the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims present for World Youth Day.
To express his gratitude, Pope Francis held a special meeting with around 15,000 of them in Rommel Fernandez Stadium.
“Put service and mission first, and you will see that everything else will follow,” the Pope told the volunteers. He said that, in their interactions with others during WYD, the volunteers had experienced how faith “becomes more alive, dynamic, and real.”
“We experience a different kind of joy from having had the opportunity to work side by side with others in achieving a shared dream.”
“Thank you all”, said the Pope, for paying attention to the smallest details, no matter how ordinary or apparently insignificant.
He said prayer had helped the volunteers to feel events more profoundly and had given their actions vitality. “In praying, we open everything we do to the Church that supports and accompanies us from heaven, to the saints who have shown us the way, but above all, we open it all to God.”
Pope Francis said they had dedicated their time, energy, and resources to organizing WYD. “You could have easily chosen to do other things, but you wanted to be involved,” he told them.
The Holy Father likened it to Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication “not only of loaves but also of hope.”