YAOUNDE, Cameroon — The Vatican defended Pope Benedict XVI's rejection of condoms as a way to stop HIV after international criticism Wednesday that he was weakening the fight against the disease.
France and Germany sharply criticized Benedict's declaration that distributing condoms "increases" the AIDS problem. The French foreign ministry said the statement could "endanger public health policies and the imperative to protect human life."
Two German ministers said that in Africa, a continent ravaged by HIV, it was irresponsible to reject condoms. The U.N. agency charged with fighting AIDS also spoke out in favor of condom use.
Benedict told reporters on his flight Tuesday to Cameroon that a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease.
"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," he said. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."
Benedict's spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, described the criticism as "echoes caused by some words by the pope on the AIDS problems."
Lombardi said the church's essential principles in its commitment against AIDS were "education about people's responsibility in the use of sexuality" and the "essential role of marriage and family." The Vatican has long rejected the use of all contraception.
Lombardi said in the written statement at the end of the second day of the weeklong papal visit that the church stresses treatment for "the widest number of sick," and "human and spiritual assistance" to AIDS patients.