The realtor from whom I rent the villa in Buenaventura warned me that a visit by Pope Francis was scheduled for the first week of my annual Panama trip with friends, beginning in January. She suggested we get flight and city hotel reservations for our arrival and departure nights nailed down early, which we did.
The Pope will be in Panama January 23-27 for World Youth Day, although I have no idea when he is arriving. We should be here and clear of the city, but not if he comes early to rest up for the big events. He is, after all, 81 years old.
I was sort of downplaying the whole thing in my mind, but apparently having el Papa Francisco in Panama is going to touch every part of the country. There are pilgrims coming from Central and South American, and perhaps from other countries as well. Local parishes, including the church in Rio Hato, are tapped to provide hospitality to the pilgrims. Gloria and Luis are hosting three young men; in Spanish they are peregrinos. Souvenirs and calendars featuring Pope Francis are already on sale.
I can’t imagine what Panama City will be like with all the added traffic and security. The streets are in major gridlock now for much of the day, and with the Pope here it’s going to be impossible to get around. I can think of lots of larger heavily Catholic countries like Brazil or Argentina or Chile where this thing might have worked better, but the Panamanians are thrilled and honored and excited to have the Holy Father here. They will do whatever it takes to make his visit a beautiful thing for their country.
Gloria is excited to host her peregrinos. Lily’s mother Rufina will host as well.