Pope AIDS comments spark activist clash

March 23, 2009 12:00 am

, PARIS, Mar 23 – Clashes broke out outside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris as anti-AIDS activists staged protests over Pope Benedict XVI’s claims on comments on condom use.

Eleven people were arrested after skirmishes pitted two dozen far-right militants against a group of green and communist activists handing out condoms outside the cathedral after Sunday mass, police said.

One person was remanded in custody for assaulting a police officer.

Separately, a group of Catholic youths faced off with two dozen anti-AIDS activists who staged a sit-in protest accusing the pope of "complicity with AIDS" for his claim that condoms aggravate the epidemic.

Held back by a police cordon, the Catholics chanted in Latin and hurled eggs and water at the activists, an AFP correspondent reported.

The protests wound down in the early afternoon.

Pope Benedict sparked global condemnation with the comments made last week as he began his first visit to Africa as pontiff.

Benedict said on the plane taking him to Cameroon that AIDS "cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems."

An IFOP poll released on Sunday showed that 43 percent of French Catholics want the pope to step down and that most want the Church to change its stance on abortion, divorce and homosexuality.


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