France's first lady Carla Bruni has launched a scathing attack on the Pope over the contraception issue. In an interview, she accused him of "damaging" countries in Africa with his stance on birth control.
The Italian-born former supermodel cheekily commented that the Church needed to "evolve."
AdvertisementIn March, Pope Benedict XVI sparked a huge row controversy while on an Africa tour by saying that the AIDs pandemic which has crippled the continent "can't be resolved with the distribution of condoms; on the contrary, there is the risk of increasing the problem."
Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy jibed: "In Africa it's often Church people who look after sick people. It's astonishing to see the difference between the theory and the reality.
"I find that the controversy coming from the Pope's message - albeit distorted by the media - is very damaging.
"I think the Church should evolve on this issue. It presents the condom as a contraceptive which, incidentally, it forbids, although it is the only existing protection," she told Femme Actuelle, a women's magazine.
For a good measure, she added, "I was born Catholic, I was baptised, but in my life, I feel profoundly secular." She was perhaps insinuating that the conservative papal establishment could be driving her away from the church altogether.
President Nicolas Sarkozy himself wrote in a 2005 book The Republic, Religions and Hope: "I acknowledge myself as a member of the Catholic Church," even if his religious practice was "periodic."
When he visited the Pope in Rome shortly after his election in 2007, he left his then girlfriend Miss Bruni - a single, unmarried mother - in Paris to avoid embarrassment.
After becoming Mr Sarkozy's third wife last year, Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy has campaigned against the spread of AIDS in Africa.
It remains to be seen whether the first lady lands herself in any serious trouble because of her attack on the Pope. A majority in France describe themselves as Catholics.
But then the current Pope is not all that popular. Some 43 per cent of them wanted the Pontiff to step down following his negative comments on condoms, according to one poll.
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