BRASILIA, Brazil, Feb 24 (Reuters) Brazil's Roman Catholic Church yesterday urged revelers to abstain from reckless sex, too much alcohol and violence during the country's Carnival celebrations.
''We are not against people having fun but caution them against hurting others or abandoning good customs,'' said Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, head of the National Conference of Brazil Bishops.
Carnival begins across Brazil, the largest Catholic country in the world, this weekend and crowds of people indulge in a frenzy of drinking, dancing and often licentious behavior.
Although the pre-Lenten festival has its roots in Christian tradition, it provides an annual headache for the church.
Agnelo told reporters ''Carnival is not intrinsically bad'' but said the use of condoms and ''day-after pills'' were incentives for promiscuous behavior.
The government will hand out 25 million free condoms to promote safe sex during the several days of parties, revelry and parades. In northeastern Salvador, health officials will provide ''next-day pills,'' Correio da Bahia newspaper reported.
''We don't want a stand-off with the government but the question is whether this is good for society, for Carnival,'' said Odilo Pedro Scherer, conference secretary-general.
The Rio de Janeiro archdiocese this week barred Mocidade Carnival samba troupe from taking a float with a statue of the Virgin to the Sambadrome parade strip, saying that the use of sacred images in a profane festival may offend Catholics.
The group, one of 14 competing for the champion's title with lavish floats and thousands of bright costumes in Brazil's most famous Carnival, said it will abide and probably cover the statue with a veil.
REUTERS SB SP1102