Pope Benedict XVI began his first papal trip to Africa today, departing from Rome to bring the Gospel to a continent racked with violence and corruption but also one which he sees as burgeoning with hope. On the plane, the Holy Father also addressed the continent’s battle with AIDS and noted that condom distribution “aggravates” the problem.
The Pope’s March 17-23 trip will bring to the fore the Church’s efforts to assist Africans in finding solutions to problems that have dogged international and internal efforts to lift its people out of poverty and beyond corruption.
As is traditional on papal trips, Pope Benedict fielded a series of questions this morning from reporters flying aboard his Alitalia flight to Cameroon. According to The Telegraph, Pope Benedict highlighted the Church’s efforts to fight the spread of AIDS through promoting abstinence and fidelity within marriage.
In fact, said the Pope, AIDS is “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems."
An increasing number of African countries have adopted the Church’s stance on using condoms in the fight against AIDS and have seen a dramatic decrease in the rate of new infections. Doctors as well as church officials argue that distributing condoms does not change behavior, but in fact, encourages the kind of sexual behaviors that increase the spread of AIDS. The regimen adopted in some of the countries, dubbed the ABC approach, urges Abstain, Be faithful and Condoms as a last resort.
Upon arriving in Cameroon’s capital city Yaoundé at 10 a.m. local time, the Holy Father will be greeted by Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, the current archbishop of Yaounde, Simon-Victor Tonye Bakot and the archbishop emeritus of Douala, Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi.
The Holy Father will later present to the bishops of Africa the working document of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in October 2009 at the Vatican.
The Pope will conclude his African visit with a three-day trip to Angola, a country that he described as facing the task of rebuilding itself in justice after its long internal war.
A more detailed schedule of the Pope’s trip can be read at http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=14887