While the western media ridicules Pope Benedict XVI for his statements that condoms only increase and complicate the AIDS crisis, African peoples are speaking out in support and solidarity with the Holy Father as he implores the world for abstinence and for monogamous fidelity, rather than condoms, in the fight against the deadly disease.
Dr. Filippo Ciantia, a Ugandan specialist in tropical medicine, along with eight other experts says that his experience resonates with the Pope’s statement.
On Thursday, CNA received a letter from Dr. Filippo Ciantia, a representative of the Association of Volunteers in International Service and a former USAID policy advisor on HIV/AIDS, along with 8 other Ugandan social and health workers in support of the Pope.
The full text of the letter follows:
We would like to contribute to the heated debate on the statements of the Holy Father on the AIDS scourge at the press conference granted to journalists during the papal flight en route to Yaoundé, Cameroon.
We are social and health workers committed to [fighting] AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic in Uganda. Our experience indicates that what the Pope said is realistic, reasonable and scientifically sound.
With our letter we would like to enrich the debate with scientific and sound data.
Moreover, a friend in Rome reports that a lovely, large and loud contingent of African students, “Hundreds of them!” converged on St. Peter’s Square yesterday (Sunday, March 29) with flags and signs to show their support of the Pope.
There were hundreds of them, and they were impossible to miss, with all their shouting and singing and dancing. Some of them had come straight from Africa with considerable sacrifices on behalf of their parishes and communities just to show their support for the Pope they’d just met in Cameroon and Angola and to voice their indignation over the attacks on him. Clergy and seminarinas were all very young, and dressed like Catholic clergy. It was awesome to hear them pray the Angelus in Latin with the Pope with their intentionally outloud baritonal voices emerging from the rest of the already big crowd. Very encouraging.
But all we hear about in the American media is how awful the Pope is for opposing the unlimited distribution of condoms in the fight against AIDS. Mari Ann Mollo of Camaroon agrees:
Another organizer, Mari Anne Mollo of Cameroon, told ZENIT that she was disappointed with the coverage of the Papal trip: “The mass media presented the ugly, suffering, disease-filled side of the continent. We had expected that they would talk about a beautiful, welcoming, lively, smiling Africa.”
“Cameroon took two days of holiday to welcome the Pope,” she said. “The journalists reduced the trip to [the statements] about condoms and ignored the Pontiff’s [other] statements.”
Mollo, who is a student at the Pontifical Gregorian University, also noted that her continent also faces other more fundamental challenges: “Africans don’t just die from AIDS, but from other diseases too, due to a lack of hygiene. How can condoms be prioritized when the lack of other basics for survival is felt?”
“The massive promotion of condoms,” she continued, “causes cultural, economic, moral impoverishment because it encourages people to engage in irresponsible behavior and it goes against our culture.
“Because of this we say ‘no’ to the disparagement of our culture and our traditions. We want to walk with Benedict XVI and follow the lines that he traced for our present and our future, and in this way write a new page.”