Benedict XVI Appeals for Peace in Sri Lanka

Caritas Sustains Damages in Bombing

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is calling for an end to the fighting in Sri Lanka, and pleading for the needs and rights of civilian victims there.

At the end of today’s general audience, the Pope noted: «News of a worsening of the conflict and the growing number of innocent victims moves me to offer a pressing appeal to the combatants to respect humanitarian law and people’s freedom of movement.

«May they do everything possible to guarantee assistance for the wounded and security for civilians, and permit their urgent food and medical needs to be satisfied.»

«May Our Lady of Madhu, so venerated by Catholics and also by members of other religions, hasten the day of peace and reconciliation in that dear country,» he prayed.

Aid agency

Caritas echoed the appeal of the Holy Father, asking for a ceasefire and aid access for civilians. They reported today that at least 250,000 people are trapped in Vanni, where the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebel group are fighting.

The director of Caritas Sri Lanka, Father Damian Fernando, asserted: «There needs to be an immediate end to the fighting by both government and rebel forces. Both sides in the conflict must seek a negotiated settlement.

«Aid agencies need to be able to reach innocent civilians who are suffering terribly due to the heavy fighting. We need to be able to reach them to provide medical and other humanitarian assistance.»

Caritas itself sustained damages through the bombing in Vanni, including one injured worker, a destroyed office, wrecked vehicles and infrastructure.

The secretary-general of the organization, Lesley-Anne Knight, called on the international community to help end the conflict, «otherwise we will be facing a humanitarian catastrophe.»

She added: «All sides of the conflict have the responsibility under international law to safeguard the lives of civilians. Currently, 250,000 people are trapped in the war zone and being directly affected by the fighting. Their protection is paramount.»

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