POPE FRANCIS was in Panama, where he criticized Donald Trump’s insistence on building a border wall, and asked wall-builders to stop sowing fear about immigrants. The pope also kicked off a global youth rally by urging the next generations to build bridges, accommodate one another, and show understanding instead.
Surprisingly, Francis was overwhelmed with emotions as he deviated from his prepared remarks on Thursday. He showered praise on the estimated 250,000 young people for finding time to attend the rally even though they speak different languages and come from different cultures. Many were waving their national flags and carrying placards.
In his words, “These builders of walls that sow fear are looking to divide people and box them in.” This comment from the pope was a clear reference to the proposed border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“What do you want to be?” Francis asked the crowd.
“Builders of bridges,” they chanted in response.
Some in the crowd at World Youth Day in Panama City are Venezuelans keeping tabs on the political crisis unfolding back home in their country. A huge banner at the rally urges Pope Francis to “pray for Venezuela.”
Carlos Bonilla is a 25-year-old Venezuelan who has been living in Panama for 10 years said that he expects the pontiff to strengthen, encourage, and give hope to the masses who are suffering and dying there.
On Wednesday the opposition leader of Venezuela’s congress declared himself interim president in a challenge to President Nicolas Maduro. Earlier this month, Maduro was inaugurated for a new six-year term after an election that many say was illegitimate because his main opponents were barred from running.
The country is in turmoil. Its people have been suffering severe economic crisis with widespread shortages of basic goods.