As 400,000 Catholic young people from around the world prepare to make their way to Cologne for World Youth Day, a spat over condom distribution has erupted.
Prayer not condoms, church officials say
Church protests have halted plans to distribute condoms during next week's Catholic World Youth Day festivities, Germany's police union announced Wednesday.
"We don't want to offend anyone," a GdP union spokeswoman told AFP, explaining that the decision had been a "question of sensitivity" in light of the Vatican's objections to condom use.
The plan involved police officers deployed at the event in Cologne passing out condoms, as the union commonly does at large public gatherings the police are asked to protect.
The spokeswoman said the decision was made after the union's representative for youth had received complaints and threats of protests from Church leaders.
Similar pressure has tied the hands of officials at a welcome center for pilgrims in Satzvey, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of Cologne, who had planned to make 200 condoms
Everything a pilgrim needs
A local deacon, Peter Gebhardt, welcomed the decision, saying that organizers had now "distanced themselves" from the plans.
But the US organization Condoms4Life, waving the banner "Good Catholics Use Condoms" said it would not be intimidated.
The anti-AIDS group said it would hang posters in English, Spanish and German with the slogan in the subway next to Cologne's landmark cathedral.
Asked about the controversy, event spokesman Matthias Kopp expressed annoyance that the question of contraception had drawn outsized attention in the run-up to the event.
Awaiting hundreds of thousands
"There are more important issues to discuss instead of presenting this one in such a provocative way at the World Youth Day," Kopp said.
Some 400,000 young pilgrims from more than 190 countries are expected at the August 16-21 event, which Pope Benedict XVI is to attend along with hundreds of thousands of Germans.