Yesterday the international media played host to a raft of experts railing against Pope Benedict’s brief words on the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS. However, the incident was the result of the Pope’s words being pulled from his defense of the Church’s personalistic approach to the AIDS crisis.
The vast majority of the Pope’s words were dedicated to explaining how the best response to AIDS is to promote a spiritual and human renewal of people’s understanding of sexuality and to be willing to live true sacrificial friendships with those who suffer from AIDS.
A full transcript of the exchange follows.
A journalist from French state TV asked Pope Benedict:
“Holy Father among the many evils that affect Africa there is also the particular problem of the the spread of AIDS. The position of the Catholic Church for fighting this evil is frequently considered unrealistic and ineffective.
“Will you address this issue during your trip? Holy Father, could you please respond in French to this question?” he asked.
Although the Pope responded to a previous question from the French newspaper La Croix in French, he gave this in-depth answer in Italian.
“I would say the opposite.”
"It is my belief that the most effective presence on the front in the battle against HIV/AIDS is precisely the Catholic Church and her institutions. I think of the Community of Sant’ Egidio, which does so much, visibly and invisibly to fight AIDS, of the Camillians, of all the nuns that are at the service of the sick.
“I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness - even through personal sacrifice - to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.
“Therefore, I would say that our double effort is to renew the human person internally, to give spiritual and human strength to a way of behaving that is just towards our own body and the other person’s body; and this capacity of suffering with those who suffer, to remain present in trying situations.
“I believe that this is the first response [to AIDS] and that this is what the Church does, and thus, she offers a great and important contribution. And we are grateful to those that do this.”