Church in Africa Aiming for a Greater Role in AIDS Fight

Statement of Episcopal Conferences

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ROME, DEC. 9, 2001 ( Catholic Church officials in Africa say the Church should take more of a leadership role in the struggle against AIDS.

This was the conclusion arrived at by the secretaries-general of regional and national episcopal conferences in that continent.

They recently met under the umbrella of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) to study the Church´s theological and pastoral response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, especially in Africa.

About 40 million people worldwide are infected, according to U.N. statistics. The effect on Africa is particularly devastating in terms of lives, undermining social and economic security, the conferees stated.

The meeting served to spell out the commitments of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, and to propose three fundamental values in the AIDS struggle: the sacredness of life, compassion and solidarity.

«The best response to the pandemic is caring, sharing resources, time, food, money and whatever is needed,» the bishops explained.

«The Church must be firm in its teaching of authentic values of life, true love and sexuality, as well as the sanctity of traditional virginity of boys and girls and fidelity in marriage, as the principle means of curbing infection of the AIDS virus,» the prelates emphasize.

«Church leaders should use appropriate language to avoid stigmatizing infected people» and at the same time to speak out against evil in societies, the participants stressed.

The bishops highlighted the «materialism and consumerism that dominates our society today, dividing the developed and developing worlds,» and also pointed out that the Church must increasingly «readdress the place of women and children in society.»

«Men in Africa use culture as an excuse to degrade women,» the bishops said. «They must be made aware of the special role that women have in the family.»

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