Pope Francis welcomed to Panama by President Varela Rodríguez

Pope Francis arrived at Panama's international airport on Wednesday afternoon at the start of his six-day trip to the Central American nation, which is hosting World Youth Day this January.

He was greeted by cheering crowds, a band and Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez and the first lady on his arrival.

The pontiff also listened to the national anthems of the Holy See and Panama, and shook hands with the authorities present.

On Thursday, the Pope will go to the Presidential Palace where he is scheduled to meet the president, local authorities and members of the diplomatic corps. He will also meet with bishops before lunch.

The highlight of Thursday is the opening ceremony for the World Youth Day at the Campo Santa Maria di Antigua zone.