The Pope’s first visit to Africa has been marked by controversial comments he made even before landing in Cameroon.
Arriving on a continent where more than 25 million people have died of AIDS since the 1980s, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception. He said on his flight to Yaounde that “the AIDS problem cannot be solved by money alone, even if that is necessary and it cannot be solved with the distribution of condoms. The distribution of condoms only makes matters worse.” The Vatican teaches that marital fidelity, chastity and abstinence are the best ways of combatting HIV/AIDS. But NGOs helping to treat some 22 million Africans currently living with HIV beg to differ. Tommy Simmons, deputy chairman of Amref, an NGO that promotes improvements in health conditions in Africa, said: “While the churches have every right to put across their point of view, from medical, health development, social points of view, professional NGOs have the right to still continue to talk about the most appropriate technical solutions to the problems that people have.” During his two-day stay in Cameroon, the Pope will meet bishops from across Africa to prepare an Africa synod to be held at the Vatican this autumn. The second and final stop of the tour is Angola.