The Vatican on Sunday cautioned that there is nothing "revolutionary" in Pope Benedict XVI's startling assertion that condom use in exceptional circumstances can be a responsible act in the fight against the spread of HIV.
The Holy See's chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement stressing that the pope's comment in a book being published Tuesday neither "reforms or changes" church teaching, which forbids use of condoms and other contraceptives.
Neither was Benedict "morally justifying" the unbridled exercise of sexuality, Lombardi added.
The pope maintains that condom use to lessen the danger of infection is a "first assumption of responsibility," the statement said, quoting from the book.
"The reasoning of the pope cannot certainly be defined as a revolutionary turn," the spokesman said.
The pope spoke in an interview given to a German journalist. Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano on Saturday published excerpts from the book, "Light of the World," three days ahead of publication.
In the interview, Benedict says that in certain cases, such as for a male prostitute, condom use could be a first step in assuming moral responsibility for stemming the spread of the virus that causes AIDS.
Lombardi noted that the pope emphasized the church's main advice in the fight against AIDS -- sexual abstinence and fidelity among married couples. He cited Benedict's words that the church "of course does not regard it (condom use) as a real or moral solution."
"With this, the pope isn't reforming or changing the teaching of the church, but reaffirming it, putting it in the context of the value and the dignity of human sexuality as expression of love and responsibility," the spokesman said.