Pope Benedict XVI said that the distribution of condoms ‘aggravates’ the Aids crisis, as he embarked on his first trip to Africa.
Once there was such thing as papal infallibility. But the Pope blew that myth recently himself, and not just once but twice – by having to apologise first to Islamic and then to Jewish sensibilities. So maybe it’s time for Catholics to wake up and trust themselves rather than their now less trustworthy leader, which could make the Pope’s words as reported in Nick Squires’ following Telegraph.co.uk article a little bit less dangerous. But only a little bit because people’s faith unfortunately often is simply too powerful and manipulative.
Pope Benedict XVI gestures from the airplane before leaving from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport for a trip to Africa that includes stops in Cameroon and Angola Photo: AP
While en route from Rome to his first stop, Cameroon, the Pope said that the condition was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.”
Speaking on board his official plane, the pontiff insisted that the Roman Catholic Church is in the forefront of the battle against Aids, advocating sexual abstinence and fidelity within marriage as a way of fighting the disease. During the seven-day visit, which will take Benedict to Cameroon and Angola, he said he would address the continent’s “grave problems and painful wounds”.
Africa is crucial to the Vatican because of its growing number of believers. Within 15 years around a sixth of the world’s Catholics, or 230 million people, are expected to be African. The continent also produces a large proportion of the world’s Catholic priests. But it also presents huge challenges for the Pope, including tension with Islam in some countries, competition from evangelical churches and opposition to the Church’s ban on condoms in countries where Aids is rife.
Pope Benedict, who has mostly confined his travels to Western countries during his four-year papacy, will first visit Cameroon during his week-long trip, and then Angola. His only previous visit to Africa was to Kinshasa in 1987 when he was a cardinal.
He will appeal to rich countries which are grappling with the global financial crisis not to forget Africa’s acute needs. An estimated 800 million Africans suffer from chronic hunger and the crisis is already affecting the level of remittances sent from abroad as African immigrants in Europe lose their jobs.
Although he will only visit two of Africa’s more than 50 countries, he hopes that his visit will “embrace the entire African continent”, he said on Sunday during his weekly blessing in St Peter’s Square in Rome. He referred to Africa’s “ancient cultures and its difficult path of development and reconciliation, its grave problems, painful wounds and enormous potential and hopes”.
He is expected to meet African bishops, Muslim imams, politicians and women’s advocacy groups. The six-day tour will be the 81-year-old pontiff’s 11th foreign trip. He is scheduled to visit Israel and Jordan in May.
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- Pope: Condoms could deepen Aids crisis (guardian.co.uk)