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Vatican Rebukes Belgium Gov’t for Criticizing Pope Condom Remarks

Kathleen Gilbert,

VATICAN CITY, April 17, 2009 ( – In a statement released today, the Vatican rebuked the Belgium legislature for passing a formal resolution last week declaring Pope Benedict XVI’s comment on condoms and the AIDS epidemic "unacceptable."

"[The Vatican] 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," said the statement from the Holy See.

The Belgian Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium met with the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States Wednesday to notify the Vatican of the legislature’s resolution and to issue an official protest.

The Vatican expressed "regret" for the action and called it "unusual in the context of the diplomatic relations existing between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Belgium."

Belgium’s move is the latest major attack on the Pope, after international media and some European political leaders reacted with outrage to Benedict’s remarks last month on Africa’s AIDS epidemic, before his visit to the continent.

When asked by a reporter about the Catholic Church’s position in the fight against AIDS in Africa, the Holy Father emphasized the need for a return to moral and "humanized" sexuality in the continent, and said the distribution of condoms only risked increasing the problem.

Noting the "unprecedented media campaign" that countered the Pope’s remarks and that touted condoms as practically the sole solution in the battle against AIDS, the Vatican today said it is "consoling to note" that the Pope’s message was well-received "by the Africans and the true friends of Africa." The Vatican mentioned the support of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africans, as well as some members of the scientific community.

Meanwhile, four prominent international pro-life organizations have gathered over 40,000 signatures in support of the Holy Father’s remarks. The pro-life groups – (based in Austria), Human Life International (HLI, Virginia, USA), HLI Europa (Poland), and Vida Humana Internacional (VHI, Miami) have teamed up to gather signatures in support of the Pope.