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Belgian MPs vote for formal protest over pope’s condom stance

BRUSSELS – Parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve a motion "urging the Belgian government to condemn the unacceptable stance taken by the pope on the occasion of his trip to Africa, and to lodge an official protest with the Holy See," the Belga news agency reported.

The pope said on a plane taking him to Cameroon last month that AIDS "cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems."

Lawmakers voted 95 for and 18 against the text, with just seven abstentions. Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy had indicated beforehand that he would support the motion and act on the demand if an earlier draft which termed the pope’s stance "dangerous and irresponsible" was changed to read "unacceptable."

Van Rompuy said he would "follow up appropriately," underlining that his own views on the value of condom use in preventing the spread of AIDS and HIV "strongly differs" from that of the pope even if his religious views do not.

"It is not up to the pope to cast doubt on the politics of public health, which are unanimously supported and save lives every day," added the liberal lawmaker who proposed the motion, Denis Ducarme.

Benedict’s comments have sparked international criticism from governments, UN agencies and health groups.

Clashes broke out outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris last month when AIDS activists staged protests against Benedict.

France’s Education Minister Xavier Darcos on Sunday condemned the remarks as "criminal" while new protests were held against the pontiff.

Portuguese bishop Ilidio Leandro on Saturday openly contradicted Benedict, saying people with AIDS were "morally obliged" to use condoms if they had sex.