- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI says the distribution of condoms is not the answer in the fight against AIDS.

Benedict insisted that the church is in the forefront of the battle against AIDS in Africa. He spoke Tuesday aboard the papal plane on his way to Africa, his first trip to the continent as pontiff.

Benedict said “you can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms.” He said that “on the contrary it increases the problem.”

The Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight the spread of disease.

The pope departed earlier Tuesday from a Rome airport. The seven-day pilgrimage will take him to Cameroon and Angola.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

ROME (AP) _ Pope Benedict XVI has departed from a Rome airport for a trip to Africa that includes stops in Cameroon and Angola.

The pope’s Alitalia flight left Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport shortly after 10 a.m. (0900 GMT, 5 a.m. EST) Tuesday. It will arrive in Yaounde, Cameroon, about six hours later.

The seven-day pilgrimage is Benedict’s first trip as pontiff to Africa, the fastest-growing region for the Roman Catholic Church.

He says he wants to bring a message of hope to a continent suffering from poverty, disease and armed conflict.

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