Swiss Catholics hand out condoms in AIDS campaign

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The Roman Catholic Church in the Swiss city of Lucerne has distributed some 400 condoms to passers-by this week in an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, effectively defying a Vatican taboo.

Parish leader Alois Metz acknowledged that condoms were a controversial subject in the Catholic Church but said in a statement that their use helped to protect lives.

"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," he added, quoting from the Bible.

The condoms were only handed out in front of the city's main railway station to those who asked for them.

The remaining 2,600 set aside will be given to parishioners who want them, said Florian Flohr, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Lucerne, on Wednesday.

"It doesn't go against the Catholic Church," he told AFP, underlining that the aim was not to "make propaganda for the condom".

"In practice some people live according to the principles of the Church but others, especially men -- those who need many women -- live in another way and need protection," Flohr remarked.

The Vatican staunchly opposes contraception and Pope Benedict XVI drew criticism during a visit to Africa last year for saying that condom use could be aggravating the AIDS crisis.

The Swiss Bishops' Conference declined to comment on the campaign.

"Catholic doctrine is clear on issues of sexuality. In this instance it's a practical issue, a particular issue to do with AIDS," spokesman Walter Mueller explained.

The diocese of Basel, which oversees Lucerne, was discussing the issue with its followers in the city. A spokesman underlined that human sexuality had to be based on faithfulness.

"But if people don't know how to live like that, then they might as well use a condom," added Giuseppe Gracia.

© 2010 AFP

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