Cameroon Bishops' Statement on AIDS

"The Holy Father Has Put Man at the Center of His Concern"

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YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon, MARCH 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the statement of the episcopal conference of Cameroon on the negative media response to Benedict XVI comments on the role of condoms in the fight against AIDS.



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After the visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Cameroon, a certain press echoed the supposed unease created by the Holy Father's statements on the use of condoms and on HIV/AIDS. This press continues to label the Pope's position on the use of condoms as irresponsible, and leads one to understand that his statements on this subject had a negative effect and affected his visit to Cameroon negatively.
 
Conscious of the consequences that such misinformation could cause, the national bishops' conference of Cameroon, through the voice of its president, Archbishop Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot, specifies the following:
 
When the Pope was on the plane that would bring him to Cameroon, he granted a press interview on board the plane itself. This interview was limited to six questions, of which the fifth was the controversy posed by the journalist of France 2, Philippe Visseyrias:
 
"Holiness, among the many evils that afflict Africa, in particular is the spread of AIDS. The position of the Catholic Church on the way to fight against it is often considered unrealistic and ineffective. Will you address this subject during your trip?"
 
Here is the Holy Father's complete answer:
 
"I would say the contrary. I think that the most efficient reality, the most present at the front of the struggle against AIDS, is precisely the Catholic Church, with her movements, with her various organizations. I am thinking of the Sant'Egidio Community that does so much, visibly and also invisibly, for the struggle against AIDS, of the Camilliani, of all the sisters who are at the disposition of the sick.

"I would say that this problem of AIDS can't be overcome only with publicity slogans. If there is not the soul, if the Africans are not helped, the scourge can't be resolved with the distribution of condoms: on the contrary, there is a risk of increasing the problem. The solution can only be found in a double commitment: first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual and human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another; and second, a true friendship, also and above all for those who suffer, the willingness -- even with sacrifice and self-denial -- to be with the suffering. And these are the factors that help and that lead to visible progress.

"Because of this, I would say that this, our double effort to renew man interiorly, to give spiritual and human strength for correct behavior with regard to one's body and that of another, and this capacity to suffer with those who suffer, to remain present in situations of trial. It seems to me that this is the correct answer, and the Church does this and thus offers a very great and important contribution. We thank all those who do this."
 
The bishops of Cameroon are astonished by what the journalists retained from this very complete statement of the Pope, focused only on opposition to condoms, concealing the whole action of the Church in the fight against AIDS and the care of the sick. They are astonished above all that the press attempts to make people believe that there is unease in Cameroonian opinion on the Holy Father's visit, as a consequence of his statements.
 
The Cameroonian episcopate underlines very strongly that Cameroonians welcomed Pope Benedict XVI with joy and enthusiasm, thus confirming their legendary hospitality. But by this, it does not deny the reality of AIDS, or its devastating effect on families in Cameroon.
 
The Holy Father has put man at the center of his concern and has reminded us of the teachings of Christ and of the Church. The Catholic Church's commitment to persons living with the AIDS virus, the support of infected and affected persons, are priorities for the Catholic Church. The support of persons and families as well as the teaching of the Church allow each one to appreciate himself in his dignity as adoptive child of God. This dignity obliges one to look at others and at the world in another way. Instead of seeking his own interest, the Church proposes to man everlasting values.
 
The Catholic Church everywhere is committed daily in the fight against AIDS. In this connection, she has created structures adapted for the reception, control and treatment of HIV infected persons. This assistance is at the same time moral, psychological, nutritional, medical and spiritual. Herein lies the Holy Father's first message on AIDS.
 
Together with this multifaceted and constant action, the Church, as moral force, has the imperative duty to remind Christians that all disordered sexual practice outside of marriage is dangerous and favors the spread of AIDS. This is why she preaches abstinence for single people and fidelity within the couple. It is her duty. She cannot subtract herself from it. Herein lies the Holy Father's second message.
 
Consequently, the bishops of Cameroon lament that the Western media have clearly forgotten other essential aspects of the Holy Father's African message on poverty, reconciliation, justice and peace. This is very serious, knowing the number of dead that other sickness cause in Africa, and on which there is no true publicity; knowing the number of dead that fratricidal fights cause in Africa due to injustice and poverty.
 
With the Pope, the bishops of Cameroon remind all Christians and all Cameroonians:
 
1) That sexual relations have as their first end the procreation desired by God himself at the beginning of creation. Marriage between a man and a woman is the ideal framework willed by God for this procreation.
 
2) That the Catholic Church does not reject AIDS patients and in no way encourages the spread of the sickness as certain media lead one to believe. She is and will always be active in the multifaceted fight against the sickness.
 
The bishops of Cameroon
 
[Translation by ZENIT]