.- As a 2 p.m. deadline for meeting Abu Sayyaf kidnappers' demands drew near yesterday, Pope Benedict issued an appeal calling for the release of the three Red Cross workers being held hostage.
The Abu Sayyaf militants had set the deadline for beheading one of their hostages, but the time passed apparently without the threat being carried out. The kidnappers are demanding that the Filipino government withdraw troops from the island of Jolo, where the terrorist group is headquartered.
On Monday afternoon the Vatican released a statement saying that the Pope is concerned for the safety of the two Europeans and one Filipino, who were seized January 15 while visiting a water sanitation project at a jail.
According to the Vatican communique, "The Holy Father, sharing the concern of the families, and of everyone worried about the safety of the three Red Cross workers kidnapped on the island of Jolo in the Philippines, wishes to raise his voice and make an appeal that humanitarian values and reason may prevail over violence and intimidation.
"The Holy Father, in the name of God, asks for the hostages to be released and calls upon the authorities to favor a peaceful solution to the dramatic situation."