By Jim Gomez, AP

MANILA, Philippines — Some church members in Southeast Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation praised Pope Benedict XVI for saying condom use might be justified in some cases, though Filipino bishops stressed Sunday the church leader still opposes contraceptives. Speaking to a German journalist whose book was excerpted in a Vatican newspaper Saturday, the pontiff reiterated that condoms are not a moral solution for stopping AIDS. But he added that in some cases, such as for male prostitutes, their use could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility “in the intention of reducing the risk of infection.” The UNAIDS agency welcomed the pope’s comments but cautioned they were only a first step toward making the use of condoms acceptable among Catholics. Story continues on page 2

“This is a significant and positive step forward taken by the Vatican today,” the executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, said in a statement released Sunday. “This move recognizes that responsible sexual behavior and the use of condoms have important roles in HIV prevention.” A UNAIDS spokesman in Geneva said that while over 80 percent of HIV infections are caused through sexual transmission, only 4 percent to 10 percent result from sex between men. There are no reliable statistics about how many infections might be prevented if male prostitutes routinely used condoms, said Mahesh Mahalingam. However, even the limited example cited by the pope was a step in the right direction, said Mahalingam. “We are welcoming this as an opening up of discussion,” he said. While the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on artificial contraception was not in question, Benedict’s stunning remarks could re-ignite debate on contraceptive use in places like the Philippines, where the issue has recently pitted the new president against the influential Catholic church.