VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2001 ( John Paul II today appealed for an end to conflicts among peoples, especially in Sri Lanka, and pointed to the "most precious blood of Christ" as a motivation for peace efforts.

The freedom proclaimed by Christianity "has a dear price: the life and blood of the Redeemer," the Pontiff told the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter´s Square to pray the midday Angelus. He noted that July is the month dedicated to contemplation of the blood of Christ, shed to redeem humanity.

"Yes! The blood of Christ is the price that God has paid to deliver humanity from the slavery of sin and death," the Pope explained. "The blood of Christ is the irrefutable proof of the love of the heavenly Father for every man; no one is excluded."

"May meditation on the sacrifice of the Lord, pledge of hope and peace for the world, encourage and stimulate the construction of peace, including there where it seems unattainable," the Holy Father added.

John Paul II referred to Sri Lanka in particular, where the Catholic community gathered at the Shrine of the Virgin of Madhu, to celebrate her feast day and to pray for peace. Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims also make pilgrimages to the shrine.

Sri Lanka, an Asian Island of 19 million inhabitants, has been at war since the 1980s, when tensions broke out between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil separatists. Tens of thousands have died in the ethnic war. Hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians have left the island. The majority live in refugee camps in India.

"A negotiated solution is the only way to address the serious questions that are at the root of this present conflict," the Pope said.

On Nov. 20, 1999, 44 people were killed in the grounds of the Madhu shrine, including 13 children. The victims had sought refuge in the shrine in an attempt to avoid the armed conflicts. The government attributed the massacre to the Tamil rebels, while the Liberation Tamil Tiger Eelam blamed the Sinhalese army.