Rome (Italy), Mar.20 (ANI): Vatican insiders have said the Holy See is struggling to contain international anger over Pope Benedict XVI's claim on his first official visit to Africa that AIDS "cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems".
The Pope's remarks about condoms, and a recent furore over his lifting of the 20-year excommunication of a British bishop who has questioned the Holocaust, has left him looking isolated and out of touch, prompting calls for a radical shake-up of the way the Holy See delivers its message.he Pope is isolated and fails to adequately consult his advisers, said a Vatican source with 20 years' knowledge of the Holy See.
Another Vatican insider described Pope Benedict's four-year-old papacy as "a disaster", recalling the pontiff's previous inflammatory remarks on Islam and homosexuality.
"He's out of touch with the real world. On the condom issue, for example, there are priests and bishops in Africa who accept that condoms are a key part of the fight against AIDS, and yet the pope adheres to this very conservative line that they encourage promiscuity. The Vatican is far removed from the reality on the ground," another insider was quoted, as saying.
Though the Vatican has moved quickly to calm feelings aroused by the Pope's comments, France, Germany and Belgium have criticized his message as irresponsible, while the UNAIDS agency said condoms were a vital part of the battle against HIV, which infects more than 7,000 people a day, reports The Guardian.
The Vatican sought to defuse the row, explaining that the pope wanted to emphasize responsible sexual conduct. It sought to tweak his original remarks in a version posted on the Holy See"s website.
According to journalists present, he originally said AIDS "cannot be overcome with the distribution of condoms which, on the contrary, increase the problem".
But in the Vatican"s version, his words became: "The scourge cannot be resolved with the distribution of prophylactics; on the contrary, the risk is of increasing the problem."
Such semantics were lost on the French government, which despite its Catholic roots, rejected the papal view.
Eric Chevallier, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry, said in an online briefing: "France voices extremely sharp concern over the consequences of Benedict XVI"s comments. While it is not up to us to pass judgment on church doctrine, we consider that such comments are a threat to public health policies and the duty to protect human life."
Laurette Onkelinx, Belgium"s health minister, said the pope"s comments reflected "a dangerous doctrinaire vision".
In Berlin, German health minister Ulla Schmidt and development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul criticized the pope"s remarks in a joint statement and underlined the importance of condom use in developing nations.
"Condoms save lives, in Europe as well as on other continents," the ministers said.
Direct criticism of the Vatican from foreign governments is rare and reflects the strength of feeling against the pope"s comments.
More than two-thirds - 67 percent of the world"s HIV sufferers live in sub-Saharan Africa and three-quarters of all AIDS deaths in 2007 took place there.
UN figures from 2007 show that more than five percent of adults among Cameroon"s estimated 18.9 million population have the disease.
Aids campaigners in Cameroon reacted strongly to the pope"s comments. Alain Fogue, a spokesman for Mocpat, a group campaigning for access to treatment for sufferers, said the pontiff was out of touch with the modern world, questioning whether he lived in the 21st century.
Michel Kazatchkine, the head of the Global Fund Aids charity, urged the pope to retract his comments. (ANI)