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Monday, June 14, 1999 Published at 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK


Church condemns Geri's visit

Causing a storm: Geri arrives for her visit to the clinic

Church leaders in the Philippines have condemned a visit by former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.

She is carrying out her first engagement as a United Nations Population Fund goodwill ambassador - promoting safe sex and wider use of condoms.

The BBC's David Willis: "Church officials are urging youngsters to ignore Geri's safe sex message"
But Catholics say she is setting a bad example for youngsters and have branded her visit immoral.

Bemused stall holders watched as the former Spice Girl and her entourage arrived at a tiny Marie Stopes family planning clinic hidden amongst a back street fruit and vegetable market.

Cameramen trampled across trays of cabbages and sweet potatoes to get a shot of her, whilst even the next door noodle seller climbed onto a narrow tin roof and peered over the edge.

Rapidly growing population

The UN Population Fund has rarely generated such excitement. But not everyone here is happy to see the 26-year-old singer.

[ image: Geri became a goodwill ambassador last year]
Geri became a goodwill ambassador last year
Church leaders are strongly against contraception. The head of the Catholic Church, whose name is Cardinal Sin, once described condoms as evil and only fit for animals.

And in a country where more than three-quarters of the population are Catholics, his views have considerable influence.

The UN says the Philippines has one of the fastest growing populations in the world and that a lack of contraceptive advice can lead to diseases such as Aids.

So it decided to make this Halliwell's first official assignment.

Charity Work

As well as urging youngsters to ignore her safe sex message, churchmen are also upset by her new video in which she appears dressed as a nun.

One described the image as unhealthy, other people have gone further calling it blasphemous and promising to pray for her.

Since leaving the Spice Girls, Halliwell has thrown herself into charity work.

She helped lead a breast cancer awareness campaign last year, and has said she decided to quit the group because she was not able to campaign on the issue. She went through a breast cancer scare when she was 18.

She has also teamed up with cabinet minister Clare Short to back an initiative to cut the numbers of women who die during pregnancy.

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