On different occasions Pope Francis expressed the wish that young people should pray for peace in the world. In order to respond to this request, ACN has offered to send rosaries as a gift to the young people gathering at the World Youth Day in Panama in January 2019.

Responsibility for supplying these rosaries has been entrusted to Caritas Jerusalem. In this way this charity has been able to provide work to many needy families, young unemployed, prisoners and refugees over many months in Bethlehem and its surrounding area. The rosaries, which can also be worn as an armband, have been produced at a cost of one US dollar apiece.

Bethlehem is a sort of microcosm of the situation of Christians in the region – their presence and survival is now at stake in the very place where Christ was born. “So that these rosaries can be a genuine instrument of peace, they have been made in the Holy Land, of local olive wood, and by the people of this very region, which is marked by such violent tensions and yet is at the same time a bearer of hope and peace. You could buy these rosaries cheaply in China – but if we made them in Bethlehem it is a sign of active solidarity with the people of the Holy Land”, says the initiator of the project, Emeritus Bishop Peter Bürcher of Reykjavik.

Msgr. José Domingo Ulloa (Archbishop of Panama Ciudad) meet olive wood workers in Jerusalem. They produce the rosaries, which Pope Francis will distribute to the pilgrims on the World Youthday in Panama 2019.

Msgr. José Domingo Ulloa (Archbishop of Panama Ciudad) meet olive wood workers in Jerusalem. They produce the rosaries, which Pope Francis will distribute to the pilgrims on the World Youthday in Panama 2019.

Archbishop Ulloa Mendieta of Panama underlines this ideas as well in a letter sent to the pontifical foundation ACN, one of the sponsors of the project: “On the one hand, it will encourage prayer and on the other, thanks to this initiative, it will sponsor an aid project that contributes to the support of our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land”.

For months now the Christians of Bethlehem have been working to produce 1 million rosaries. For each of the 200 families involved in Bethlehem the project will yield enough to support them for a full year. And they too will be contributing by their work; they will be personally involved. Though trapped in the shadow of the warfare in the Middle East, they are not forgotten. And what is equally important to them is the fact that hundreds of thousands of young people will be praying for peace and thereby fulfilling a personal wish of the Pope.

Olive Woord Rosary with a photo of Pope Francis. He will distribute to the pilgrims on the World Youthday in Panama 2019.

Olive Woord Rosary with a photo of Pope Francis. He will distribute to the pilgrims on the World Youthday in Panama 2019.

It is expected that there will be at least half a million young people in Panama. Pope Francis has repeatedly called on us to pray this prayer, saying that with the Rosary nothing is impossible, since “the Rosary is the summary of the history of God’s mercy”. This is also very in the line of the theme of the World Youth Day: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Bethlehem remains a city of hope. And we are entrusting this hope, along with the rosaries, into the hands of the young people in Panama.

The Pontifical Foundation ACN supports the World Youth Day in Panama with several projects. The charity is also one of the sponsors of the rosaries included in the pilgrim’s kit, a project that it has helped with 100,000.- €.


The World Youth Day in PANAMA will be the launch-pad for a unique educational grassroots initiative that will gradually percolate to all of Central America. The DOCAT (= the catholic social teaching with a foreword and impulses from Pope Francis) will be distributed in huge numbers. A multitude of study groups will be formed. Archbishop Ulloa Mendieta of Panama says, “Nothing helps our youth more than education. Once they know the Christian social doctrine, they will also know how to fight corruption, end violence, establish democracy, make freedom happen and create wealth with the power of the Gospel”. Together with Pope Francis, he dreams of a revolution of love and justice that will affect all the countries of the region – from Mexico to Panama!

DOCAT presented in the World Youth Day 2016.

DOCAT presented in the World Youth Day 2016.

Pope Francis supports this with all his heart. He will distribute the DOCAT books and the DOCAT smartphone app to WYD Panama pilgrims as his personal gift. The host, Archbishop Ulloa, will invite the Central American pilgrims, in the opening speech and through the media, to enter deeply into the Catholic social doctrine. 25,000 Spanish DOCAT books and up to 1,000,000 digital versions are all set to be distributed. The only condition is: Whoever takes a book has to form a study group. (There is a free digital study guide to help animate these DOCAT study groups). All pilgrims can also download the DOCAT smartphone app which will also be freely available. Dedicated support and mentoring by 35 social doctrine experts from all over the world will also be available to the DOCAT recipients on how to work with catholic social teaching to build a fairer society.

The project will be support from ACN (Aid to the Church in need) which is an organisation that is approved by the Vatican.

On the XXXIV World Youth Day (WYD), the Catholic Church in Panama has decided to reveal the hidden face of the country. “When a foreigner arrives in Panama, he might think he’s in Dubai, but that’s just the façade,” says Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa of Panama City, the capital.

This Central American country, which has some 4 million inhabitants, more than 80% of whom are Catholics, is preparing to receive Pope Francis, host of this major event that will take place from January 22 to 27, 2019.

One of the six most unequal countries in Latin America

According to the World Bank, Panama is one of the six countries with the greatest inequality in Latin America and one of the ten countries with the greatest inequality in the world. “The WYD 2019 will be the occasion to discover the true face of our country”, said Archbishop Ulloa. Last November, the Archbishop, a member of the Order of St. Augustine, received a delegation from the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in his Diocese of Panama.

Next to the wide and clean avenues of the capital, bordered by luxury shops, glass skyscrapers, bank branches and service companies—not forgetting the prestigious canal—Panama reserves its riches for the wealthy.

“Panama has two faces. In the country, by 2015, the richest 10 per cent of households had incomes 37 times higher than the poorest 10 per cent. These figures reveal to us the social injustice and the high degree of inequality suffered by our people,” emphasizes the Archbishop of Panama.

One of the six most unequal countries in Latin America

One of the six most unequal countries in Latin America

Afro-descendants and marginalized indigenous groups

The fate of Afro-descendants is not to be envied. Their ancestors were African slaves exported to Panama in the 15th and 16th centuries, or people from the Antilles who came to work on the construction of the Panama Canal in the 20th century. These people suffer directly from poverty and marginalization. They live in poor neighborhoods and traditionally impoverished areas and provinces such as Colon, Darien and Panama. Afro-descendants are now mestizos.

In addition, Panama has seven indigenous ethnic groups that represent around 10-12% of the population or half a million people. A significant part of this autochthonous population lives in a situation of serious marginalization and social exclusion.

“The health status of these indigenous peoples is precarious—infant mortality is three times higher than in the rest of the population—and they also suffer from low levels of education and schooling. As a result, this indigenous population does not have access to well-paid jobs, as Panamanian society is essentially a service-oriented society.

Panama is not the Switzerland of Central America

“From the outside they see a very proud Panama. They think we’re dealing with a Central American Switzerland, but we have to look beyond that: 40% of people work in the undeclared economy. There is a deep Panama that is not reached by development, while international cooperation reduces its aid because it considers Panama to be a developed country,” Maribel Jaen, from the Archbishop’s Justice and Peace Commission, explains to the ACN delegation.

For his part, Bishop Ochogavia, of the Diocese of Colon-Kuna Yala, points out that regional differences are very important: “The people of Colon, who suffer high unemployment, have a bad reputation, so they hide their origin when looking for work. In some families, they have only one meal a day and there is a lack of access to clean water and medical care. Some communities have only one toilet for twenty families! This population lives in a vicious circle that strangles hope.”

“The challenge will be the next day”

For the bishop, the strength of the Church in Panama is its laity, and the impact of the next WYD is already felt: many young people have been involved in the organization of this event. “It’s not just the Catholics; there are even non-believing young people who participate! WYD is a blessing for youth ministry, but also a job opportunity for many young people.

The child´s bible "God speaks to his children" in Spanish language (Missionary infancy, Panama).

The child´s bible “God speaks to his children” in Spanish language (Missionary infancy, Panama).

“The challenge will be the next day. It will be necessary to keep the dynamism of WYD, to continue the work, because there is the risk that the charismatic tendency prevails. Very present in Panama, this tendency is often based on the superficial, the emotional, the sentimental. Hence the importance of educating the faithful and the young, in the Social Doctrine of the Church,” says Maribel Jaen.

Archbishop Ulloa also hopes that this WYD, in which 400,000 young people are expected to participate, will offer the opportunity to relaunch and deepen the Social Teachings of the Church, because, in his opinion, the small Church in Panama, which has only 6 dioceses, an apostolic prelature and an apostolic vicariate, needs a profound renewal.

The Archbishop of Panama celebrates the fact that during the next WYD young people who are expected to attend can become familiar with the social teaching of the Church through the Docat Digital app. Provided by the YOUCAT Foundation, which is part of ACN, its goal is to help young people understand in their own language, by answering their questions, this important aspect of Christian commitment.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT Aid to the Church in Need, VISIT http://www.churchinneed.org


Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 5000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.