VATICAN CITY (CNS) — With the next global celebration of World Youth Day scheduled for Jan. 22-27, 2019, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell knows many young Catholics in North America and Europe may find it a challenge to attend.

“It is a period of intense academic activity” for students in high school and university, but the Panama gathering will not be the first held in January, he noted. World Youth Day 1995 in Manila, Philippines, was held in January and “it has remained in history as the one with the largest number of participants.”


The choice of January for Panama, he said, was motivated by the weather, “seeing that January is the month with the least rain.”

Cardinal Farrell, former bishop of Dallas, is prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life and will assist the bishops of Panama in planning the event.

In an interview Jan. 25 with L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Cardinal Farrell noted that the 2019 celebration of World Youth Day will be the first with an explicitly Marian theme — Mary’s words to the Angel Gabriel: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

In preparation for the international gathering, Pope Francis chose other Marian themes: For 2017 it is “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” And for 2018, the theme is: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Cardinal Farrell said the Marian themes “underline the presence of the mother of God in the life of young people and, especially, in the faith and devotion of the peoples of Central America.”