Wednesday, April 15 saw an unusual meeting take place as the Ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See delivered an official condemnation of the Pope's remarks on the use of condoms to prevent AIDS in Africa from his country's House of Representatives.
Ambassador Frank de Coninck was ordered by the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs to lodge the official condemnation with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States.
In reaction to the move, the Vatican Secretariat of State 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."
The Vatican also said it "deplores the fact that a Parliamentary Assembly should have thought it appropriate to criticize the Holy Father on the basis of an isolated extract from an interview, separated from its context, and used by some groups with a clear intent to intimidate, as if to dissuade the Pope from expressing himself on certain themes of obvious moral relevance and from teaching the Church’s doctrine."
The Secretariat of State also pointed out that the Pope did more than make remarks on the effectiveness of using condoms. Pope Benedict, the Vatican recalled, offered a two prong plan for combating the AIDS crisis. The first part involves "bringing out the human dimension of sexuality," and the second consists of convincing people to offer "true friendship and willingness to help persons who are suffering."
But all of this was passed over by the media as it unleashed a firestorm of criticism, particularly in Europe, the Vatican charged.
Amidst the oftentimes harsh criticism, the Secretariat of State pointed out that it found consolation in the fact 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."
Numerous members of the African medical community, many with experience combating AIDS, as well as some American experts spoke out in favor of the Pope's words at the time.
Dr. Edward Green, a Senior Harvard Researcher for AIDS Prevention, told CNA that science is finding that the media is actually on the wrong side of the issue. In fact, Green said that not only do condoms not work, but that they may be "exacerbating the problem" in Africa.
In today's statement, the Vatican also noted that the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (CERAO) also welcomed the Pope's words.
"We are grateful for the message of hope which [the Holy Father] came to entrust to us in Cameroon and Angola. He came to encourage us to live in unity, reconciled with one another in justice and peace, so that the Church in Africa can herself be a burning flame of hope for the life of the entire continent. And we thank him for having restated for all, in a nuanced, clear and insightful way, the common teaching of the Church concerning the pastoral care of sufferers from AIDS."