Vatican Statement Defends Pope's Comments on Condoms, HIV/AIDS in Africa

The Vatican last week released a statement defending Pope Benedict XVI's recent comments regarding condoms and the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. According to the statement, Benedict's comments have been "used by some groups with a clear intent to intimidate, as if to dissuade the pope from expressing himself on certain themes of obvious moral relevance and from teaching the church's doctrine." The statement also said that criticism of the pope's comments was followed by an "unprecedented media campaign" in Europe that promoted the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and ignored Benedict's comments about responsible sexual behavior and providing care to people living with HIV/AIDS.

According to the AP/Inquirer, the Belgian Parliament recently passed a resolution that called the pope's comments "unacceptable" and asked the government to protest officially. The country's ambassador to the Vatican lodged the formal protest Wednesday, a move the Vatican criticized in its statement. "The Vatican is responding to this protest in a measured and balanced way, but also firmly and clearly," to make it "clear that the pope and the church won't be intimidated by these criticisms or by media campaigns and will continue to staunchly support Catholic positions on moral issues," Vatican spokesperson the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. According to the Rev. John Wauck, a professor at the Pontifical Santa Croce University in Rome, the statement was diplomatically appropriate and restrained because it did not mention the work that the Roman Catholic Church does to provide HIV/AIDS care. Wauck said that much of the criticism came from Western nations and not from Africa. Africans "weren't up in arms about what the pope was saying. The people who were up in arms are in Brussels," he said (Winfield, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/18).

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