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Spokesman Explains Church's Fight Against AIDS. Clarifies Media's Misrepresentation of Papal Words on Condoms
YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon, MARCH 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican spokesman commented on Benedict XVI's words regarding the fight against AIDS, clarifying that the Church's priority is education, research and human and spiritual assistance, not condom distribution.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, clarified this in a communiqué published Wednesday from Yaoundé. He responded to interpretations by the media and by government representatives, of the Pope's words to journalists during his flight from Rome to Cameroon.

A front-page editorial by Giovanni Maria Vian, director of L'Osservatore Romano, stated that some of the media reduced the Pontiff's message on AIDS "to just one aspect -- moreover, taken out of context and in a controversial vein -- namely, that of the methods to confront the spread of AIDS."

He noted that, based on a partial version of the Pope's words in his reference to AIDS and condoms reported by the media on Tuesday, government representatives and institutions responded with harsh criticism.

For example, Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is quoted on French radio and other sources as expressing his "profound indignation" and asking the Pope to retract his statements, considering them "unacceptable," as they represent "a denial of the epidemic."

Representatives of the governments of Spain, France and Belgium also attacked the Holy Father.

Church's position

Father Lombardi stated that the Pontiff, in his address, "confirmed the positions of the Catholic Church and the essential lines of her commitment to combat the terrible scourge of AIDS."

The first step, he explained, is "education in the responsibility of persons in the use of sexuality and with the reaffirmation of the essential role of marriage and the family."

Second, the spokesman said, the epidemic must be fought "with research and the implementation of effective treatments for AIDS, making them available to the greatest number of patients through many health initiatives and institutions."

Thirdly, he noted, the response must include "human and spiritual assistance to AIDS patients, as well as to all those who suffer, who have always been in the heart of the Church."

Father Lombardi underlined the Church's commitment to fight AIDS in these ways, noting that "to seek essentially a greater diffusion of condoms, is not in reality the best way, the broadest view or the most effective way to address the scourge of AIDS and to safeguard human life."