By Matters India Reporter
Panama City, Jan. 27, 2019: Pope Francis says he is still keen to visit India, a country he keeps in his heart and for which he deeply cares.
This was the answer the Pope gave to a question asked by an Indian youth delegate on January 26 during lunch with the Holy Father at the sidelines of the 34th World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama.
The 16th World Youth Day was held in Panama during January 22 to 27.
Bedwin Taitus K of India was among ten young people — five men and five women — chosen to share a meal with the Pope at St. Joseph’s Major Seminary in Panama, Central America.
The youth who later spoke to journalists were from Australia, Burkina Faso, India, the Palestinian territories, Panama, Spain and the United States. Each participant was given the opportunity to ask Pope Francis a question.
Bedwin said the food they ate was typically Panamanian, and “was really tasty.” However, that’s all he remembers about the meal itself. “The food was secondary,” he said and added, “We were too busy concentrating on talking to the Pope!”
The conversation turned to the question of if and when Pope Francis will make a pastoral visit to India. Bedwin was encouraged when the Pope told him he is “trying to come to India” and that he was particularly excited to discover the Pope knew about his home state of Kerala.
Bedwin told journalists he initially was nervous, but became at ease and was moved when the Pope told him that “he takes India in his heart and deeply cares for India.”
The Indian youth also said his question for Pope Francis was “very different” than that of his peers.
“I asked him how many hours he sleeps,” Bedwin said. “He laughed and he told me he sleeps for six hours. I told him that I would pray for you that every day you sleep peacefully.”
The Pope’s response to his offer for prayer, Bedwin recalled, “was very thought-provoking.”
“He told us, ‘You have to take care of your Holy Father.’ So, I had a very beautiful experience.”
Bedwin, who hails from Kochi, Kerala, had earlier worked Jesus Youth, an international Catholic movement.
Pope Francis wound up the global gathering of young Catholics on January 27 with a giant open-air Mass for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims before leaving Panama.
The pope, who on Saturday admitted the Church had been “wounded” by a deepening clergy sex abuse crisis, will celebrate the second open-air mass of his visit at a park on the outskirts of Panama City.
After the Mass, the 82-year-old Pope also met young people living with AIDS and HIV at the Good Samaritan home in the city.
On January 26, the Pope acknowledged that the Church was “wounded by sin” in a homily addressed to priests and seminarians reeling from sexual abuse scandals and coverups.
Pope Francis says Church hasn’t known ‘how to listen’
Celebrating Mass at the landmark Cathedral of Santa Maria La Antigua in the capital city of Panama City, Francis warned of the “weariness of hope that comes from seeing a Church wounded by sin, which has so often failed to hear all those cries.”
Later, at a massive vigil that the organizers said drew 600,000 pilgrims, the Pope called on young people to reject the temptation to live their lives online and urged them to get involved in their communities.
Life was not “in the cloud, waiting to be downloaded, a new app to be discovered, or a technique of mental self-improvement,” the pontiff said during his grandfatherly discourse.
The Argentine pope has used his encounter with young people in Central America to speak out repeatedly in defense of migrants, and address other problems affecting the region such as poverty, drug trafficking, violence and what he said was a regional “plague” of murders of women.
In a swipe at US President Donald Trump’s plans to build a border wall against migrants, the Pope said at a giant prayer meeting on January 26 that it was “senseless” to condemn every immigrant “as a threat to society.”
During that Mass Francis consecrated a new altar at the restored basilica, rubbing it down with holy oil and blessing it in a solemn ceremony.
Installed in the altar were the relics of three Latin American saints, including Oscar Romero — the San Salvador archbishop murdered while giving mass by a far-right hit squad in El Salvador in 1980 — who was made a saint by Pope Francis last year.