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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Cardinal backs limited condom use
Cardinal Martini
Cardinal Martini is one of the Church's most prominent leaders
One of the Roman Catholic Church's most distinguished cardinals has publicly backed the use of condoms for married couples to prevent Aids transmission.

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini said that in couples where one had HIV/Aids, which could pass to the partner, the use of condoms was "a lesser evil".

The Vatican says condoms should never be used, even to stop Aids spreading from one married partner to another.

The Church teaches that abstinence is the best way to tackle disease.

Growing issue

Cardinal Martini, who used to be Archbishop of Milan, made the comments in an interview with the Italian weekly magazine l'Espresso.

In it he says that the fight against Aids, which has caused more than three million deaths, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, must be pursued by all available means.

The Vatican has made no official comment on the article, in which the cardinal also raises the possibility of single mothers adopting abandoned children.

But the BBC's David Willey in Rome says that such matters are an increasingly important subject of discussion in Church circles.

According to insistent reports, Cardinal Martini was a close runner-up in last year's papal election.

Italians react to the cardinal's comments

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