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Belgian parliament lodges protest against Pope's condom remarks

The Pope's controversial remarks have provoked widespread criticism in the press and by health officials in Europe, but the Belgian move marks the first time a country has lodged an official protest against the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI before leaving for Africa

Belgium is the first country to officially protest Benedict's comments

The resolution passed by the Belgian parliament late Thursday called on the Belgian envoy to the Vatican to lodge a protest over the pontiff's comments, which it called “unacceptable.”

It ordered the government to "react strongly against any state or organization that in the future brings into doubt the benefit of using condoms to prevent transmission of the AIDS virus".

Vatican "astonished" by Belgian move

In a statement on Friday, chief Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi called the resolution "astonishing,” adding that it was “obvious that in any democratic state the Holy Father should be free to express his own positions."

A German advertizing poster promoting the use of condoms

This German ad urges people to "Do it safely!"

Lombardi went on to question whether Belgium's lawmakers had paid enough attention to the Pope's arguments when they overwhelmingly approved the resolution. He also inquired as to whether the Belgian parliament had obtained its information from “non-objective” western media sources.

During his trip to Africa last month, Benedict XVI said AIDS "cannot be overcome by the distribution of condoms,” adding that “on the contrary, they increase the problem".

Unprecedented condemnations

The comments led to unprecedented condemnations in editorials in the New York Times, the Washington Post and many other publications, and a storm of criticism by officials and politicians in a number of countries.

The Vatican, however, continues to defend the Pope's words, saying that a rejection of contraception "maintains the position of Benedict's predecessors."

HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, has infected some 33 million people globally and has killed 25 million. Two-thirds of those infected are in Africa.

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