The 130 Order of Malta volunteers who flew to Panama for World Youth Day will be offering assistance and first aid to pilgrims. After those in Krakow in 2016 and Rio de Janeiro in 2013, this is the 34th edition of the great gathering established in 1984 by Pope John Paul II. The volunteers have come from Italy, France and Germany and will be present at all the international events and masses, inspired this year by a passage from the gospel of St. Luke: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”.
“Our volunteers will work in close cooperation with the Panamanian first-aid, civil defence and fire-fighting services and with the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps and Swiss Guards,” explained Grand Hospitaller Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, heading the Order’s delegation. “Our doctors and nurses have participated in every World Youth Day since the very first one,” added the Grand Hospitaller.
The Order of Malta is thus renewing its mission of assisting pilgrims, a tradition dating back 900 years but which has progressively become more efficient and focussed. Albeit belonging to different national corps, the volunteers will all wear identical uniforms and can interact in their various languages with young pilgrims from many different countries. Over 250,000 young people are expected, and the main turnout will probably be on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th, the final days of the festivities. An important test for the small central American country which is hosting the massive gathering for the first time. Pope Francis will also be there, giving three homilies, six speeches and an Angelus, all in Spanish.