.- With the Sri Lankan military pushing its offensive against the Tamil rebels into the final stages, Pope Benedict XVI has called on the warring parties to "show respect for humanitarian law."
News reports indicate that heavy fighting is taking place in parts of northeastern Sri Lanka, as government troops close in on the last-remaining holdouts of the Tamil Tigers.
Aid agencies are indicating that around 250,000 civilians are trapped by the forces surrounding the rebels.
Pope Benedict mentioned his concern for the "worsening conflict" in remarks made at his Wednesday general audience at the Vatican.
The Holy Father noted that "the growing number of innocent victims induces us to address a pressing appeal to the combatants to show respect for humanitarian law and for people's freedom of movement."
"May they do everything possible to guarantee assistance for the wounded and security for civilians, and enable their most urgent food and healthcare needs to be satisfied," he added.
The Pope also prayed, "May Our Lady of Madhu, so venerated by Catholics and by members of other religions, hasten the day of peace and reconciliation in that dear country."