“Today more than ever, there is a need for common action at the international level, to ensure that nobody is left behind anymore: we cannot remain in silence in front of drownings at sea, massacres of civilians, bombs and bullets that target our volunteers and health facilities as well.”

These were some of the words addressed to His Holiness Pope Francis by IFRC President Francesco Rocca earlier today, during a meeting at the Vatican that saw the participation of more than 6,000 Italian Red Cross volunteers, as well as leaders of 16 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world. President Rocca’s speech addressed a number of key issues including new social vulnerabilities, national and international humanitarian emergencies, as well as the crucial role of volunteers in responding to these.

Pope Francis saluted the millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers around the world who help “bring down the shadow of indifference and the culture of waste, which are so common today” and who, with compassion, “put people, not money, at the centre of social life.” He also paid tribute to the tens of them who made the ultimate sacrifice as they tried to save others.

In his address, President Rocca also stressed that, for Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, “there are no forgotten crises or remote places.” For them, “humanity is the guiding principle that becomes reality in conflict zones, on search and rescue ships in the Mediterranean Sea, in Central Italy after the earthquake, each day with the elderly, children, the homeless, the most vulnerable, and all those who risk becoming invisible. Welcoming, protecting the dignity of every human being and promoting integration are priorities for us.”