{mosimage}A leading HIV researcher says Pope Benedict XVI was unfairly criticized for his comments against condoms as an effective AIDS prevention strategy in Africa.

“Abstinence is the best message for young people, particularly if they are reached before they are sexually active,” Edward C. Green, director of the Harvard AIDS Prevention Research Project , told The Catholic Register. “For Africa, (promoting condoms) may be exacerbating the problem.”

Obama to address Notre Dame grads

{mosimage}WASHINGTON - University of Notre Dame officials were standing firm on their choice of U.S. President Barack Obama as commencement speaker at the institution’s May 17 graduation, in spite of a large number of Catholics calling on them to rescind the invitation.

The Indiana university, run by the Congregation of Holy Cross, and the White House announced March 20 that Obama would be Notre Dame’s 2009 commencement speaker and confirmed he will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at the graduation.

Pope Benedict praises African women

{mosimage}LUANDA, Angola - Pope Benedict XVI strongly defended women's rights and praised the many "silent heroines" of Africa who are holding families and society together.

African women in particular are working under adverse conditions that are often caused by the "behaviour and attitudes of men," the Pope said in Angola March 22.

"History records almost exclusively the accomplishments of men, when in fact much of it is due to the determined, unrelenting and charitable action of women," he said.

Pope Benedict brings hope and comfort to Africa

{mosimage}YAOUNDE, Cameroon - Arriving in Africa, Pope Benedict XVI said the church’s message of hope and reconciliation was sorely needed by a continent suffering disproportionately from poverty, conflict and disease.

At a welcoming ceremony March 17 in Yaounde, the Pope said he was making his first visit to Africa to respond to the many men and women who “long to hear a word of hope and comfort.”

European leaders condemn Pope's condom stance

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Government officials in Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium publicly criticized Pope Benedict XVI after newspapers reported that he said the use of condoms could increase the spread of AIDS.

On his March 17 flight to Cameroon, Pope Benedict had told reporters, "One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem."

Pope outlines views on African synod

{mosimage}YAOUNDE, Cameroon - Pope Benedict XVI offered a sneak preview of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, identifying several issues he believes will be crucial.

Above all, he said, the church in Africa is called to be a healing community on a continent torn by "savage conflicts" and other tragedies.

In Africa, pope warns of erosion of values, 'tyranny of materialism'

{mosimage}YAOUNDE, Cameroon (CNS) -- Celebrating Mass with more than 40,000 Catholics in Cameroon, Pope Benedict XVI urged African families to reject the "tyranny of materialism" and other social changes that risk eroding the continent's traditional values.

"Brothers and sisters in Cameroon and throughout Africa, you who have received from God so many human virtues, take care of your souls! Do not let yourselves be captivated by selfish illusions and false ideals!" the pope said in a homily March 19 at the Amadou Ahidjo soccer stadium in Yaounde.

The Pope's journey of hope

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said his trip to Africa would be a missionary journey highlighting the continent’s challenges, its enormous potential and its “profound religious soul.”

The Pope, speaking two days before his departure for Cameroon and Angola, said he was not bringing a political or social program to Africa, but simply the Gospel message of love that is “capable of transforming the world.”

Pope regrets Lefebvrite misunderstanding

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has written a letter to the world’s bishops defending his decision to lift the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops and expressing regret that it gave rise to misunderstandings and polemics, according to Italian newspapers.

The Pope said the controversy over Bishop Richard Williamson’s statements denying the extent of the Holocaust was “a misadventure that was for me unforeseeable” and acknowledged that the Vatican should have paid more attention to information easily available on the Internet, the reports said.

New stem-cell policy favours politics over ethics

{mosimage}WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama's executive order reversing the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research represents "a sad victory of politics over science and ethics," Cardinal Justin Rigali said shortly after the March 9 signing of the order at the White House.

The chairman of the  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities was among Catholic, pro-life and other leaders who criticized the reversal, which Obama had promised during his campaign.

Bishops hope African trip encourages peace

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - A group of Nigerian bishops expressed hope that Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to Africa will spur the troubled continent on a path toward peace, justice and reconciliation.

Three bishops from Nigeria said they are looking at Pope Benedict’s March 17-23 visit to Cameroon and Angola as an opportunity to show that the church wants to help heal divisions that continue to tear apart the continent.