Belgium condemns Pope over condom issue

Vatican accuses Belgium of trying to ‘intimidate’ Pope after Parliament decision condemns his comments on condoms

In an unusual diplomatic move the Vatican today accused Belgium of trying to “intimidate” Pope Benedict XVI following a resolution by the Belgian Parliament condemning the pontiff for saying during a recent trip to Africa that the use of condoms could worsen the spread of Aids.

In a statement the Vatican said it was inappropriate to criticise the Pope. The episode had been used “by some groups” in an attempt to “intimidate” the pontiff from expressing Church teachings and “expressing himself on certain themes of obvious moral relevance”. It said the Pope’s remarks, made on the papal plane to Cameroon last month had been taken out of context and were an “isolated extract”.

France and Germany also criticised the Pope’s comments as irresponsible. But the Belgian Parliament went further and passed a resolution calling them “unacceptable”, demanding that the Belgian government make a formal protest. Belgium’s ambassador to the Holy See delivered the protest on April 15.

The Vatican Secretariat of State, which issued the statement, said it “notes with regret this action, unusual in the context of the diplomatic relations existing between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Belgium.” It deplored “the fact that a parliamentary assembly should have thought it appropriate to criticise the Holy Father on the basis of an isolated extract from an interview, separated from its context”, and attacked the “unprecedented media campaign” in Europe over the Pope’s remarks on condoms, accusing the media of ignoring Benedict’s full message on the need to care for those suffering from Aids.

By contrast Africans and “the true friends of Africa” had praised the pontiff’s remarks, it said. Pope Benedict, who this week turned 82, marks his fourth anniversary as pontiff on Sunday.

The statement said: “As is well known, the Holy Father, in answer to a question concerning the efficacy and the realistic character of the Church’s positions on combating Aids, stated that the solution is to be sought in two directions: on the one hand through bringing out the human dimension of sexuality; and on the other, through true friendship and willingness to help persons who are suffering”.

It added: “Without this moral and educational dimension, the battle against Aids will not be won. While in some European countries an unprecedented media campaign was unleashed concerning the predominant, not to say exclusive, value of prophylactics in the fight against Aids, it is consoling to note that the moral considerations articulated by the Holy Father were understood and appreciated, in particular by the Africans and the true friends of Africa, as well as by some members of the scientific community.”

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