Prophylactic Measure Facebook Users to Flood Vatican with Condoms

Pope Benedict XVI triggered yet another scandal when he criticized the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS in Africa. Now the protests are taking an unusual form: The pontiff is about to receive a deluge of condoms by post -- gifts from international members of a Facebook group.

Condoms printed to mock Pope Benedict XVI after his polemic remarks that they do not help in the fight against AIDS.

Condoms printed to mock Pope Benedict XVI after his polemic remarks that they do not help in the fight against AIDS.

When Benedict XVI travelled to Africa, the continent worst-hit by AIDS, he stumbled, once again, head first into an international controversy. His remarks that condoms were not the answer in the continent's battle against the killer virus sparked vociferous criticism from experts and politicans alike.

Now that anger is being expressed in an unusual way: An Italian group on the social networking Web site Facebook is urging people to post condoms to the pope in protest over his remarks. It expects 60,000 subscribers will send a condom to the Vatican on Friday.

The postal protest is "a peaceful provocation ... a reaction to the pope's absurd words on condoms," wrote the Italian organizers of the Facebook group, which now has more than 26,000 members. It said it represented young people "who are the closest and most interested in this kind of question."

Similar social networking groups supporting the condom campaign have sprung up elsewhere on Facebook, triggering pledges of participation from across Europe and beyond. Some estimate that deliveries to the pontiff may total 5 million. One Web site calls on people to either send a real condom addressed to "His Holiness" at the Vatican or a photograph of the contraceptive to his email address.

The pope's comments, made to journalists aboard his flight to Cameroon, also came under attack from expert quarters on Friday. Britain's The Lancet, one of the world's most influential medical journals, argued in its latest edition that the comments distorted scientific evidence. It singled out Benedict's remark that condoms do not help and even ''increase the problem'' of AIDS for particular criticism.

"By saying that condoms exacerbate the problem of HIV/AIDS, the pope has publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue," the London-based journal said in an editorial. "Whether the pope's error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear."

The journal also called on him to make a retraction. "Anything less from Pope Benedict would be an immense disservice to the public and health advocates, including many thousands of Catholics, who work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide," it wrote.


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