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Condoms worsen the AIDS epidemic in Africa

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Pope Benedict XVI began his Africa tour on 17 March. The European press criticises his statement, made in Cameroon, that the distribution of condoms was worsening the Aids epidemic rather than helping to stop it. Views from the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Germany

‘Questionable’ - La Repubblica, Italy

The left-liberal Italian daily harshly criticises the Pope's statements. ‘Certainly the Pope is right to say that the Aids epidemic can't be stopped by distributing condoms and calling for people who have Aids to be given free medical treatment. But to add that condoms were only aggravating the problem seems rather questionable. Are they not the mechanical barrier that protect women and hinder the spread of Aids? The cruel, inhuman severity of a church that punishes a Brazilian girl and the doctors who saved her life by performing an abortion with excommunication is not a pretty example of the church's compassion for human suffering. The soul of a Brazilian girl and a woman from Cameroon are less important for the Church than that of an anti-Semitic bishop and Holocaust denier (Adriano Prospero)

‘Mistaken’ - Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany

The left-liberal daily calls the catholic church's ban on condoms mistaken: ‘The Pope is right, even if it angers some of his most notorious critics: the fight against Aids, one of the scourges of Africa, cannot be won by thrusting condoms into the hands of as many people as possible. This is nothing to celebrate, however, for catholics who remain faithful to the Pope. Because Pope Benedict XVI is wrong to cling to the catholic ban on condoms. Sexuality cannot be controlled by publishing encyclicals. And that frightens the Pope so much that he puts principles over people: condoms are and remain the devil's playthings. The result is that everyone spends their time talking about preservatives, either with indignation or with smirks, and everything the catholic church has to say about love, responsibility and partnership falls on deaf ears’ (Matthias Drobinski)

‘Hampered’ - The Times, United Kingdom

(Image: serenitee2008/ Flickr)The daily calls the Pope's statements ‘a threat to public health. The Vatican continues to hamper anti-Aids programmes in two ways. It tries to prevent catholic medical facilities from distributing condoms, and it argues mistakenly against the demonstrated effectiveness of condoms in reducing rates of infection. Pope Benedict has shown deft judgement on some issues. But many devout Catholics are convinced that the Vatican must amend its position on Aids. They are right. The scientific process of observation and evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of condoms in preventing Aids. And as Matthew's Gospel records Jesus as saying: I will have mercy, and not sacrifice'

‘Hypocritical’ - Jornal de Notícias, Portugal

‘The head of the church insists on leading the church backwards,’ the daily writes. ‘Pope Benedict XVI can command catholics to do whatever he wants. Those who want to follow him can do so. But when he addresses the whole world - believers and non-believers - and above all a continent where many have Aids, he cannot ignore the fact that the use of condoms can help in the fight against the Aids epidemic. Naturally sexual abstinence would be the best solution, but not even the Pope himself believes this will work. When it comes to Aids the Pope should not be hypocritical. Nor should the Church tolerate Holocaust deniers, yet it does’

‘Solace and encouragement’ – ABC, Spain

The conservative daily welcomes the Pope's visit to several African countries. ‘With no less than fourteen million new believers in the last century, Africa is the region where the church has grown most rapidly. The spread of revolutionary ideologies and fundamentalist doctrine prevents peace and development, so that the strengthening of catholicism is good news in the fight against the recurring and monstrous problem of terrorism. For that reason the Pope brings solace to thousands of people suffering from Aids and leprosy, and encouragement to so many priests who go about their pastoral work under such difficult circumstances’

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Translated from Pas de préservatifs pour l'Afrique ?