Pope condom row continues

April 3, 2009 12:00 am

, VATICAN CITY, Apr 3 – The Vatican said on Friday it was puzzled by a Belgian parliament move that could lead to a formal protest over Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks against the use of condoms.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Thursday’s vote in the Belgian parliament had "caused bewilderment".

"In all democratic countries the freedom of the Holy Father and the Catholic Church to express their positions on issues that have an obvious link with the human being and their moral responsibility seems to have been understood," Lombardi said in an interview with Vatican radio.

"The Church’s great tradition and experience in the fields of development and health, notably in very poor countries, is so obvious that it does not call for a demonstration or comment," he added.

The Belgian parliament voted 95-18 for a motion urging the government "to condemn the unacceptable stance taken by the pope on the occasion of his trip to Africa, and to lodge an official protest with the Holy See," the Belga news agency reported.

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

Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy had indicated before the vote that he would support the motion and act on the demand if an earlier draft which termed the pope’s stance "dangerous and irresponsible" was changed to read "unacceptable".

Van Rompuy said he would "follow up appropriately," underlining that his own views on the value of condom use in preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS "strongly differs" from that of the pope even if his religious views do not.

Benedict’s comments sparked international criticism from governments, UN agencies and health groups.

Clashes broke out outside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris last month when AIDS activists staged protests against Benedict.

France’s Education Minister Xavier Darcos has condemned the remarks as "criminal".

Portuguese bishop Ilidio Leandro on Saturday openly contradicted Benedict, saying people with AIDS were "morally obliged" to use condoms if they had sex.


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