Diocese of East Anglia

85-year-old Brit joins thousands of young Catholics in Panama for World Youth Day

Thu 24 Jan 2019
By Eno Adeogun

An 85-year-old priest from Norwich has joined up to half-a-million young Catholics in Panama to celebrate World Youth Day (WYD).

Fr Michael Johnston was among young people from the Diocese of East Anglia that flew in to attend the six-day event that celebrates youngsters.

He told Premier why he wanted to go despite being one of the oldest pilgrims.


Speaking from the Central American country during Premier's News Hour, he said: "It's a wonderful spirit of young people, all full of Christian faith - Catholic faith, all coming together for the same purpose.

"All with great joy, friendship, all with the joy of welcoming the Holy Father - the Pope, being able to actually see him…and be with him at mass.

"If you could see the people around me - I can see flags from Australia, US, Great Britain, New Zealand - all English-speaking countries all coming together…"

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell


This isn't the first time Fr Michael has attended the celebration.

He first went to the event that was initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1985 and has gone eight times since.

WYD is celebrated at the diocesan level annually but the event is marked every two to three years in different locations.

Diocese of East Anglia
Fr Michael Johnston speaking to Premier


Fr Michael told Premier he was pleased about this year's choice of Panama.

"I'm finding it very friendly, the people are really pleased to see this huge crowd of young people," he said.

"They welcome them - every time we come across them, they're very pleasant and friendly."

The Pope flew 13 hours from Rome to Panama City and greeted people and their babies who had waited outside the airport in 33°C humid heat to lay their eyes on the pontiff.

AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino


The Pope on Thursday met with the President, local authorities, members of the Diplomatic Corps and bishops of Central America.

Jessica McCall, 23, from Ipswich, is part of the Diocese of East Anglia's Ignite Youth Team based at Walsingham, and made her second WYD trip.

She said: "I had an amazing experience at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, three years ago. It was amazing to see so many young Catholics in one place and I am really excited about what we will see in Panama.

"I am expecting to meet Catholic young people from all over the world and to enjoy the teaching sessions looking at different aspects of the Catholic faith."

A regular blog will be published following the East Anglia group's adventure in Panama that can be found on the Diocese of East Anglia's website.

Listen to Premier's Alex Williams speaking with Fr Michael Johnston:

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