Charities urge next Pope to act with compassion

Dominic Wood

Aids and sexual health charities have called for the next Pope to take a "wise and compassionate" approach to abortion and contraception issues.

Fpa chief executive Ann Weyman said John Paul II's stance on such issues had been "extremely damaging, and led to the deaths of many people".

She added: "We hope the Catholic Church will see this as an opportunity to respond to the needs of people in the developed and developing world to promote the use of condoms to prevent HIV.

"I hope the cardinals will reflect on the Pope's legacy and respond to circumstances with wisdom and compassion."

Tony Kerridge, press and public affairs manager at Marie Stopes International, said the selection process for the new Pope paid no heed to the views of pressure groups. "There isn't a mechanism to get to the cardinals to influence them," he said.

Emma Bickerstaff, media officer at the National Aids Trust, said there was no chance the Catholic Church would support condom use, but that it could still adopt a fresh approach to HIV.

"The next Pope should promote non-contraceptive HIV prevention methods such as microbicide gels, which need research to become effective," she said. "Spreading myths about condoms is the most damaging thing that can be done."

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