A team of pilgrims representing World Youth Day 2019 offered a message of hope and consolation to Mexicans impacted by a devastating Sept. 7 earthquake.  

On Oct. 2, the team visited areas affected by the earthquake with the official World Youth Day Pilgrim Cross and a Marian icon, as a sign of solidarity. The team is touring Mexico as part of an international pilgrimage promoting the 2019 World Youth Day, to be held in Panama City, Panama.

They had been scheduled to stop in Oaxaca, in the south of Mexico, during their tour, but local churches cancelled their visits after the earthquake, due to the extensive damage in that area. The group decided to “make a visit anyway as a sign of solidarity, as a sign of the presence of Christ through the cross and the Blessed Mother with the icon,”  Fr. José de la Luz López, national adviser to the Mexican bishops' youth ministry, told CNA.

They received permission to bring the World Youth Day symbols to the cathedral and two shelters in Tehuantepec, an area heavily impacted by the earthquake. Young people from the Tehuantepec diocesan team also participated in organizing the reception of the cross and icon. Fr. José de la Luz said that the symbols were transported to Oaxaca in a pickup truck from Acapulco, a distance of 400 miles that typically takes more than 12 hours by car.

The priest said he would “sum up in two ways” the reaction of the earthquake victims when they received the cross and icon. “First, these symbols gave a lot of hope. The young people were very enthusiastic, they were very hopeful in the midst of all their bewilderment and pain, and they were committed to rebuild their homes,” he said.

“The second thing I take away is that we Mexicans are going to have a lot to learn from the young people from these hard-hit places. The people of Oaxaca have shown us a great deal of fortitude and faith,” he continued.

At the cathedral in Tehuantepec, the World Youth Day cross was displayed during a service drawing more than 120 people. From the cathedral, the cross was taken to a nearby shelter, where nearly 100 people gathered to pray.  Most of them were elderly, the priest said, because the young people and adults were out removing the debris from their homes in order to rescue their belongings. The team then transported the cross through devastated areas, displayed in the bed of their pickup truck.

“We passed through the most affected areas and we prayed from the pickup truck. Then we went to the town of Ixtepec, where the situation is somewhat different — the shelters are very small because most of the people have set up tents next to their homes,” Lopez said. Besides visiting one of the shelters in Ixtepec, the cross and icon were also present at a Holy Hour that a local parish held for the victims.

The pilgrimage will continue in Mexico until Oct. 13, before travelling through Central America and the Caribbean, and concluding August 2018 in Panama. The 8.1-magnitude earthquake that struck the southern coast of Mexico on Sept. 7 resulted in widespread damage and nearly 100 deaths. It was followed less than two weeks later by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake 400 miles away, which killed more than 300 people and injured 6,000.  

This article was originally published by ACI Prensa.  It has been translated and adapted by CNA.