04/12/2012 - The Catholic Church of Panama is preparing for the 500th anniversary of the founding of the first diocese in the Americas, which happened in Panama in 1513.
Panama will also celebrate the 500th anniversary of the sighting of the Pacific Ocean by European explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa next year.
As part of these two events, Archbishop of Panama José Domingo Ulloa will begin preparing statements that examine the state of the country and a path to help guide its future.
Panama enjoys the highest rate of growth in the region, with a 10.6 percent increase in the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011 and a similar projection for this year. But it also has a poverty rate of 25.8 percent, and 19.1 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, according to Unicef
The high cost of living and insecurity appear to be the greatest concerns of the slightly more than 3.4 million inhabitants.
Ulloa said the events to celebrate the two anniversaries next year will start in November and end in January 2014.
He said it will be a time for Panamanians "to look at our roots and look at the past with gratitude for what the church has done during these 500 years, as well as to look to the future not only as a church, but as a country."
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