The Latest: Pope touches down in Panama, meets first couple

By The Associated Press | Updated - Jan 23rd, 2019 @ 3:05pm | Posted - Jan 23rd, 2019 @ 5:03am


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VATICAN CITY (AP) — The latest on the pope's visit to Panama (all times local):

10:45 p.m.

Pope Francis has arrived in Panama where he is to offer encouragement to young people gathered for World Youth Day 2019.

The pontiff's plane touched down Wednesday afternoon in the Panamanian capital. He was met by President Juan Carlos Varela and first lady Lorena Castillo, who escorted him along a red carpet laid on the tarmac.

Spectators waved Panamanian flags in greeting and shouted, "This is the youth of the pope!"

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1:05 p.m.

Pope Francis has told reporters traveling with him to Panama aboard the papal plane that he plans to go to Japan in November.

Francis had previously said he wanted to go, but this is the first confirmation that a trip will happen.

The pope also said he wants to visit Iraq, but that local church leaders have told him that the security situation is not yet right.

After Panama, where the pope is attending World Youth Day, the pontiff has scheduled trips to United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bulgaria and Macedonia in the first half of this year.

He also is rumored to be considering a trip to Madagascar in the second half of the year.

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1 p.m.

Pope Francis says fear of migration is "making us crazy" as he begins a trip to central America amid a standoff over President Donald Trump's promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and a new caravan of migrants heading north.

Francis, asked by reporters en route to Panama Wednesday about the proposed border wall, responded: "It is the fear that makes us crazy."

The Roman Catholic Church's first Latin American pope and the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, Francis has made the plight of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his papacy. He is also expected to offer words of encouragement to young people gathered in Panama for World Youth Day, the church's once-every-three-year pep rally that aims to invigorate the next generation of Catholics in their faith.

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6 a.m.

Pope Francis is looking to leave the sex abuse scandal buffeting his papacy behind as he heads to Central America amid a standoff over President Donald Trump's promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and a new caravan of migrants heading north.

History's first Latin American pope, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, has made the plight of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his papacy. He is also expected to offer words of encouragement to young people gathered in Panama for World Youth Day, the church's once-every-three-year pep rally that aims to invigorate the next generation of Catholics in their faith.

Panama Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa said Francis' message is likely to resonate with young Central Americans who see their only future free of violence and poverty in migrating to the U.S. — "young people who often fall into the hands of drug traffickers and so many other realities that our young people face."

The pope is expected to urge young people to create their own opportunities, while calling on governments do their share as well.

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