Pope Benedict XVI visits Cameroon; says condoms not the answer in the fight against HIV/Aids

YAOUNDE – Pope Benedict said on the eve of his trip that he wanted to wrap his arms around the entire continent, with “it’s painful wounds, its enormous potential and hopes”. “A Christian can never remain silent,” he said, after being greeted on arrival in Cameroon by President Paul Biya.

Pope Benedict XVI stated that HIV/Aids is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.

The solution lay, he said, in a “spiritual and human awakening” and “friendship for those who suffer”. Speaking at the airport in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, the Pope called on Christians to speak up in the face of violence, poverty, hunger, corruption and abuse of power.

The pontiff, who preaches marital fidelity and abstinence, said the practice of handing out condoms only increased the problem of HIV/Aids. Some 22 million people are infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UN figures for 2007.

The Pope is also due to visit Angola on his week-long trip, where thousands are expected to attend open-air Masses.

According to Vatican figures, the number of Catholics in Africa has been rising steadily in recent years. Baptized Catholics made up 17% of the African population in 2006, compared with 12% in 1978.

While in Africa, the pontiff is expected to talk to young people about the Aids epidemic and explain to them why the Catholic Church recommends sexual abstinence as the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.

He gave a similar message to African bishops who visited the Vatican in 2005, when he told them that abstinence and fidelity, not condoms, were the means to tackle the epidemic.

The Pope will stay until Friday in Yaounde, where he will meet bishops from all over Africa who will be taking part in a meeting at the Vatican later this year to discuss the Church’s role in Africa.

In Angola, which is still recovering from 27 years of civil war, Pope Benedict will meet diplomats posted in Luanda and is expected to urge the international community not to abandon Africa.

The pontiff is also due to hold private talks with political leaders in the two countries, both of which have been accused of corruption and squandering revenues from natural resources.


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