Pope Recalls Children in War Zones, Red Cross, Hostages


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VATICAN CITY, 24 JUN 2009 (VIS) - At the end of today's general audience, the Holy Father greeted a delegation headed by Radhika Coomaraswamy, under secretary general of the United Nations and special representative for children and armed conflict.

The Pope expressed his appreciation for the efforts made by Ms. Coomaraswamy and her collaborators "to defend the child victims of violence and arms, I am thinking of all the children of the world, especially those who suffer fear, abandonment, hunger, abuses, sickness and death. The Pope remains close to all these young victims and always remembers them in his prayers".

He then went on to recall that on 24 June 1859, 150 years ago today, "was born the idea for a great movement to assist the victims of war, a movement which later took the name of Red Cross.

"With the passage of the years", the Holy Father added, "the values of universality, neutrality and independence of service have aroused the support of millions of volunteers all over the world, creating an important bulwark of humanity and solidarity in numerous contexts of war and conflict, and in many emergency situations. While expressing the hope that human beings in all their dignity and integrity will remain at the centre of the Red Cross's humanitarian efforts, I particularly encourage young people to make a concrete commitment to this most worthy organisation.

"I also take advantage of this moment", Benedict XVI concluded, "to ask for the release of all people held hostage in areas of conflict and, once again, for the release of Eugenio Vagni, Red Cross worker in the Philippines".