Pontiff Recruits Youth for Red Cross


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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is encouraging youth to volunteer with the Red Cross, which is celebrating today its 150th birthday.

The Pope recalled the anniversary today at the end of the general audience in St. Peter's Square, noting how on June 24, 1859, "the idea for a great movement to assist war victims, a movement that later took the name of Red Cross, was born."

The Holy Father noted how the "values of universality, neutrality and independence of service" have led millions of volunteers to offer their time to the Red Cross, thereby "creating an important bulwark of humanity and solidarity in numerous contexts of war and conflict, and in many emergency situations."

The Pontiff expressed the hope that "human beings in all their dignity and integrity will remain at the center of the Red Cross's humanitarian efforts." And he said he particularly encourages "young people to make a concrete commitment to this most worthy organization."

The Pontiff also took advantage of the anniversary to appeal for the release of people held hostage in areas of conflict. He particularly mentioned Eugenio Vagni, an Italian Red Cross worker held in the Philippines. Vagni was taken Jan. 15 by the Abu Sayyaf militant group, which has ties to al-Qaeda.