Kenya condom advert opposed by Catholic Church

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Catholics for Choice condom advertImage source, Catholics for Choice
Image caption,
Those behind the campaign say its message is "authentically Catholic"

Kenya's Roman Catholic Church has condemned a Catholic group for a billboard and newspaper advertising campaign promoting condom use.

The US-based Catholics for Choice was planting "negative attitudes" that could destroy the nation's "moral fibre", church leaders said.

Catholics for Choice defend it, saying it could curb the spread of HIV.

Around 1.6 million people out of Kenya's population of 41.6 million are living with HIV, according to the UN.

Catholics are heavily divided over the use of condoms.

A television advert urging married women to use condoms was recently pulled from Kenyan television following an outcry from religious groups.

'Sex is sacred'

Catholics for Choice has said its "condoms4life" campaign shows "an authentically Catholic message".

The group has run advertisements in newspapers and billboards in Kenya showing a smiling couple with the slogan: "Good Catholics Use Condoms".

"We believe in God. We believe that sex is sacred. We believe in caring for each other. We believe in using condoms," the advert reads.

But Cardinal John Njue, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the church promoted pro-life, not pro-choice.

"Catholics for Choice are not Catholics in the sense of the one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church," he said in a statement.

Cardinal Njue called for the advertisements to be stopped.

"Remember if the moral fibre of any nation is destroyed, then you have destroyed the nation as well," he said.

Catholics for Choice said it launched its campaign after pressure from religious groups forced the Kenyan government to drop an advertisement in March promoting condom use in marriage.

"The campaign is vital because the bishops' recent activities are not representative of Catholic teachings or beliefs. Catholics do support the use of condoms, and they do use them to protect themselves and their partners," campaign co-ordinator Jon O'Brien said in a statement last month.

The Kenyan bishops' anti-condom remarks contradict the view of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI who stated in 2010 that "where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection" condoms can be "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality", Mr O'Brien said.

Pope Francis was chosen as the head of Catholic Church last month after Pope Benedict stepped down, saying he was too frail to carry on in the job.

The new pope has not commented about the use of condoms since his elevation to the papacy.

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