Pope Benedict XVI had previously opposed the use of condoms [AFP]

Pope Benedict XVI has in a book to be published soon said that the use of condoms can be "justified in some cases".

The Vatican newspaper ran excerpts of the book Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times on Saturday, ahead of its publication on Tuesday.

In the book-length interview with a German journalist the pope said that it is acceptable to use condoms in some cases such as for male prostitutes seeking to prevent the spread of HIV.

Church teaching has long opposed condoms since they are a form of artificial contraception. The Vatican has been harshly criticised for its position given the Aids crisis.

Benedict said that for male prostitutes for whom contraception is not a central issue, condoms are not a moral solution. But they could be justified "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection".

The Pope's remarks has been seen as a shift in position, because he drew unprecedented criticism from European governments, international organisations and scientists in March 2009 when he told reporters while flying to Africa that condoms would not resolve the Aids problem there but, on the contrary, increase it.

The statement was condemned by France, Germany and the UN agency charged with fighting Aids as irresponsible and dangerous.

While opposition to condoms is a long-standing church position, the Vatican felt constrained to step in and say Benedict wanted to stress that a reliance on condoms distracted from the need for proper education in sexual conduct.

Source: Agencies