Pope Benedict XVI refused Wednesday to soften the Vatican’s ban on condom use as he arrived in Africa for his first visit to the continent as pope.
He landed in Cameroon, the first stop on a trip that will also take him to Angola.
Sub-Saharan Africa has been hit harder by AIDS and HIV than any other region of the world, according to the United Nations and World Health Organization. There has been fierce debate between those who advocate the use of condoms to help stop the spread of the epidemic and those who oppose it.
The pontiff reiterated the Vatican’s policy on condom use as he flew from Rome to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, CNN Vatican analyst John Allen said.
Pope Benedict has always made it clear he intends to uphold the traditional Catholic teaching on artificial contraception — a “clear moral prohibition” — Allen said. But his remarks Tuesday were among the first times he stated the policy explicitly since he became pope nearly four years ago.
He has, however, assembled a panel of scientists and theologians to consider the narrow question of whether to allow condoms for married couples, one of whom has HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
It is still not clear how the pope will rule on the matter, said Allen, who is also a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.
The Catholic Church has long been on the front line of HIV care, he said, adding that it is probably the largest private provider of HIV care in the world.
More than 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, according to a 2008 UNAIDS/WHO report. Nine out of 10 children with HIV in the world live in the region, which has 11.4 million orphans because of AIDS, the report said, and 1.5 million people there died of the disease in 2007.
This story makes me want to put on a fake Pope outfit, fly to Africa and give out condoms.
THE Pope has backed away slightly from his claim made in Africa that the distribution of condoms exacerbates the spread of AIDS.
Amid pointed attacks on the Pope’s comments by the French Government, angry aid groups and much of the Western media, the Vatican yesterday released a text that watered down his assertion.
The Catholic Church has long opposed the use of condoms to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS but on Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT) the Pope went further by asserting for the first time that the use of condoms could actually increase the epidemic, which has infected some 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Pope initially told reporters flying with him to Cameroon that AIDS was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”.
But yesterday the Vatican website published an edited text changing his words to say that the use of condoms “risks” aggravating the problem.
Reporters who taped the Italian-language interview said the Pope, who speaks fluent Italian, did not say the word “risks” on Tuesday and he was unequivocal in saying that condoms aggravate the epidemic.
The Pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the Pope stood by his belief that the distribution of condoms was “not in reality the best way” to tackle AIDS, and that the best answer was marital fidelity and sexual abstinence for the unmarried. – news.com.au
Let’s assume the epidemic is real and not the result of flawed testing methods. Let’s also assume that many people around the world find it very difficult to permanently change their sexual behavior. The realities suggest that the Pope should create his own brand of special Pope-hat shaped condoms to distribute in Africa. The Holy Condom Project. It’s an idea … whose time … (wait for it) … has come.