Krakow, Poland, Jul 31, 2016 / 03:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis officially closed WYD in Krakow, thanking the thousands of youth who traveled across the world to participate, and announced that the next global encounter will take place in Panama. “I am happy to announce that the next World Youth Day — after the two that will be held on the diocesan level — will take place in 2019 in Panama,” the Pope said July 31.

He made the announcement after celebrating the closing Mass for the July 26-31 WYD event in Krakow, and before leading youth in the traditional Marian Angelus prayer. Rumors on where the next WYD would take place centered primarily on either Asia or Africa in the lead-up to the Krakow gathering, making the announcement of Panama to a certain extent unexpected, at least among the youth. However, according to one local, the country could use it.

Aquilino, 40, from Panama City, was leading a group of youth from his hometown during the Krakow encounter. He told CNA in an interview that for him, the biggest takeaway from the event has been “faith and love,” which he said are badly needed both by his home country of Panama and by the whole world.

Events like WYD, he said, “show to the word the unity of the church, and the strength of the youth of the world…It’s very important that people around the world can see what has happened here.” He also voiced his hope that the young people he’s traveling with bring the fruits of this World Youth Day back home. “I hope that the youngest of my group can live this experience and transmit all that they have learned here with their classmates and their families,” he said.

While Krakow is likely to be his last time leading a group on pilgrimage to WYD, Aquilino will “of course” participate in the Panama gathering.  

In his address before reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis thanked Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, for his service in hosting the event, and he also thanked the youth themselves for their presence and their faith.

“You filled Krakow with the contagious enthusiasm of your faith. Saint John Paul II has rejoiced from heaven, and he will help you spread the joy of the Gospel everywhere,” Francis said. After spending several days in prayer and fraternity, the youth have received “a spiritual ‘breath of fresh air,’” he said, which will help them to “live lives of mercy once you return to your own countries and communities.”  

Pope Francis pointed to an image of the Virgin Mary behind the altar which had been venerated by  St. John Paul II at the Shrine of Kalwaria. Mary, he said, can show WYD participants how to make their experience “productive.” “She tells us to do what she did: not to squander the gift you have received, but to treasure it in your heart so it can grow and bear fruit, with the help of the Holy Spirit.” By doing this, each person, with all their faults and limitations, “can be a witness to Christ wherever you live: at home, in your parishes, in your associations and groups, and your places of study, work, service, entertainment…wherever God’s providence will lead you.”

He closed his address by asking Holy Spirit to “to enlighten and sustain” the journey of youth in the Church and throughout the world, so that they may become both disciples and witnesses of God’s mercy.