The headmaster of a school in Rome has come under criticism from the Vatican after he installed condom vending machines for students.
Critics in the Vatican have seen the move, as a matter of "deep concern", while supporters say it is "evidence of great courage", with the headmaster encouraging others to follow suit.
AdvertisementThe Kepler scientific secondary school became the first in the Italian education system to install condom vending machines for students amid the national controversy regarding the same.
The machines, installed in the girls' and boys' toilets, will sell cut-price condoms just a few miles from the Vatican.
The Kepler is in a lower-middle class district of Rome, just outside the city's ancient walls.
Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who stands in for the pope in his capacity as bishop of Rome, deplored the initiative as "trivialising sexuality".
The head of the capital's doctors' association said he too disapproved of the project.
"This is like recognising you can have sex at school," the Guardian quoted Dr Mario Falconi as saying.
"I would not want a scholastic use of the condom to be authorised in this fashion, especially considering there is no problem of availability of prophylactics in our country," he said.
The condoms went on sale at 2 euros for a packet of three - less than half the usual retail price.
The Kepler's headteacher, Antonio Panaccione, invited other schools "not to take fright, and do the same".
His comments and those of others reflected the continuing influence in Italy of Catholic teaching on sexual matters.
"At the outset, there was some hesitation among some of the parents and teachers, motivated by fear and insecurity. But then, by discussing it, that was all got over," Panaccione said.
The Italian student's union, which noted that the French Lycie in Rome had been making condoms available to its pupils since 2001, said in a statement: "Only in Italy would this cause a stir."
"A number of secondary educational institutions in western countries distribute condoms, as do many schools in the US," it added.