Benedict XVI Prays for Sri Lanka

Urges International Community to Aid Civilians

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is asking humanitarian groups to aid the children, women and elderly of Sri Lanka, as he said he would pray for peace and reconciliation in the country.

Before praying the midday Regina Caeli today with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope turned his thoughts to Sri Lanka, where Asia’s longest modern war has been waging since 1983.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam conceded the war today after they were unable to defend the last half square mile of land they controlled in a losing battle to gain their independence as a separate Tamil nation.

The United Nations estimates more than 4,500 civilians have been killed in the past three months alone.

The Pontiff assured «those civilians who find themselves in the combat zone in the northern part of the country of my affection and spiritual nearness.»

«There are thousands of children, women, and elderly there from whom the war has taken away years of life and hope,» the Holy Father added. «In this respect, I would like once again to address an urgent invitation to the opposing sides to facilitate the evacuation [of the civilians] and join my voice to that of the United Nations’ Security Council which just some days ago asked for guarantees of their safety and security.

«Furthermore, I ask the humanitarian organizations, including Catholic ones, to do all they can to meet the refugees urgent food and medical need.»

Benedict XVI entrusted Sri Lanka to the Holy Virgin of Madhu, and prayed that God «will hasten the day of reconciliation and peace.»

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