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Pope: Red Cross’ humanitarian work shows that fraternity is possible

Meeting members of the Italian Red Cross in the Vatican, Pope Francis praises its “irreplaceable service” ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and other disasters.

By Lisa Zengarini

Pope Francis met on Saturday with members of the Italian Red Cross (ICR), as they celebrate the 160th anniversary of its foundation in 1864.

In that year the Committee of the Italian Association for the Aid to the Wounded and Sick in War was established in Milan, following the foundation of the International Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1863.

Addressing some 6,000 ICR volunteers and workers in the Paul VI Audience Hall, Pope Francis warmly thanked them for the humanitarian aid they continue to provide to those suffering war and other disasters across the world.

A visible sign of  fraternity at work

“Your commitment,” he noted, “inspired by the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, volunteerism, unity and universality, is also a visible sign that fraternity is possible.”

“If the person is put at the centre, we can dialogue, work together for the common good, going beyond divisions, breaking down the walls of enmity, overcoming the logic of interest and power that blind and make the other an enemy.”

Children are the most vulnerable to the ravages of war

In thanking the Italian Red Cross for this  “irreplaceable service”, not only in conflict zones and in areas affected by natural disasters, but also in favour of migrants and the most vulnerable, the Pope encouraged them “to continue in this great work of charity, especially for children,  the most vulnerable to the ravages of war.

“May the Red Cross always remain an eloquent symbol of a love for brothers that has no boundaries, whether geographical, cultural, social, economic or religious.”

Being present everywhere where needed

Pope Francis went on to note that the slogan chosen for the anniversary celebrations – “Everywhere for anyone” – is particularly fitting for the humanitarian organization, as it typically describes its style, and its being there where needed.

“Everywhere”, he remarked, implies that “no context can be said to be free from suffering,” that we must “globalize solidarity”  and  also that we need “rules that guarantee human rights in every place, practices that nourish the culture of encounter and people capable of looking at the world with a broad perspective.”

Being there for anyone suffering

The word “anyone”, on the other hand, reminds us that “every person has their dignity and deserves our attention”, and that “we cannot look the other way or discard them because of their conditions, their disability, their origin or their social status.” Pope Francis therefore invited the Italian Red Cross to continue to stand by those in need  “especially – he said  – in a time when racism and contempt grow like tares.

The Pope further noted the anniversary slogan recalls St. Paul’s words in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “I have become everything for everyone”, which summarized his mission to bring the joy of the Gospel to all: “This he said – is the style that you also implement every time  you intervene with a fraternal spirit to at least alleviate suffering.”

Pope Francis concluded by invoking God’s  grace  to be instruments of fraternity and peace, protagonists in charity and builders of a fraternal and supportive world.”

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