“Contrary to what some have said, it is not true that the Church has changed its position on condoms,” the Spanish bishops’ conference said in a statement.

Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, secretary general of the conference, earlier sent shockwaves through the Church by saying the condom “has its place in the context of the integral and global prevention of AIDS”.

While Mr Camino’s comments were seen in Spain as a sea-change in how the Roman Catholic Church views use of condoms, the Vatican — where Church doctrine is set out — reiterated the official line, and Catholic leaders elsewhere followed suit.

Clarifying any misunderstandings, the Spanish bishops’ conference said the statement had not changed Church doctrine.

“The only conduct to advise is the responsible exercise of sexuality, in line with the moral norm,” said a statement, reiterating Vatican doctrine that sexual abstinence and fidelity were the best weapons against HIV/AIDS.

“It is not possible to advise people to use condoms if it goes against their private morality,” it said.

It insisted Mr Camino had merely given a “brief response” to journalists’ questions on a Spanish government program for AIDS prevention that foresaw use of condoms.

“The statement must be understood within the meaning of Catholic doctrine which says use of condoms implies immoral sexual conduct,” the statement said.

The Vatican forbids use of condoms because they are a form of contraception, and has in the past openly contradicted scientific evidence of their effectiveness as a barrier to HIV, the precursor to AIDS.

Several other Episcopal conferences across Europe backed the Vatican.

The Church in Switzerland said it “remains on the same line as Rome. We don’t have a different position from that of the Vatican.”

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