Pope Francis has arrived in Panama where he is to offer encouragement to young people gathered for World Youth Day 2019.

The pontiff’s plane touched down on Wednesday afternoon in the Panamanian capital.

He was met by President Juan Carlos Varela and first lady Lorena Castillo, who escorted him along a red carpet laid on the tarmac.

Panama Pope
Pope Francis walks between Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and first lady Lorena Castillo de Varela (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

Spectators waved Panamanian flags in greeting and shouted: “This is the youth of the pope!”

The pontiff told reporters travelling with him aboard the papal plane that he plans to go to Japan in November.

Francis had previously said he wanted to go, but this is the first confirmation that a trip will happen.

The pope also said he wants to visit Iraq, but that local church leaders have told him that the security situation is not yet right.

After Panama, the pontiff has scheduled trips to the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bulgaria and Macedonia.