Pope Benedict XVI told African bishops that abstinence is the only "fail-safe" way to prevent the spread of HIV, reiterating the Roman Catholic Church's teaching to the prelates from a continent ravaged by the virus. The pope met recently with bishops from South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, and Lesotho. He has met previously with bishops from Burundi and Rwanda since assuming the papacy April 19, but this was the first time he took up the problem of the AIDS epidemic on the continent.
"It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking, and a contraceptive mentality, all of which contribute to a breakdown in sexual morality," Benedict said. The pope said he shared the bishops' concern about the devastation caused by AIDS and that he prayed for "all those whose lives have been shattered by this cruel epidemic."
The pope said that "the Catholic Church has always been at the forefront both in prevention and in treatment of this illness" and that "the traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only fail-safe way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS." For that reason, he said, fidelity in marriage "and the safeguard which chastity gives" must always be presented to the faithful, especially to the young. (AP)