Women And Men Can Use Condoms To Protect Themselves From Aids, Vatican Says

The Vatican today paved the way for the widespread use of condoms by Catholics, stirring impassioned theological debate among his millions of followers across the world.

In an attempt to clarify the confusion caused at the weekend by the leaking of differently translated passages from a book of interviews with the pontiff, his spokesman used its launch to signal that condom use is acceptable as a lesser evil where there was risk of HIV contagion.

Across Africa reaction to the statement exposed the divergence of views within the Catholic church. The pope's amplified comments may have created a doctrinal dilemma for hardliners.

Matthew Ndagosa, archbishop for the Kaduna diocese in Nigeria, where Catholicism is thriving, said: ""Everybody is misinterpreting the Vatican. People have made up their own minds on this issue and are twisting the words to fit them.

""Holy father's message was clear – there is no change in policy. The church will continue to believe that the indiscriminate use of condoms encourages promiscuity and aggravates the situation.""

But Boniface Lele, archbishop for the diocese of Mombasa in Kenya, where 30% of the population is Catholic, said he was pleased: He has been advocating change in church policy on condoms, to the displeasure of the Vatican. ""In my diocese, I tell couples that if one or both or them are sick, they should use condoms. For prevention it is good thing.""

Gabriel Dolan, an Irish priest who works among the poor in Mombasa, described the church's historic stance on condom use as ""an injustice to those in danger"" in countries which have a serious Aids problem. ""This news is a relief,"" he said. ""I think it's just the beginning. Once you make a small concession like this it's like taking a brick out of the Berlin Wall."""