Pope Benedict has opened the door on the previously taboo subject of the use of condoms in certain limited cases. In a significant departure from what the Catholic Church has always maintained, the pope now says that, in some cases, using condoms may not always be wrong.
Male prostitutes, for example, could be justified in using them to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Just last year, Pope Benedict angered many around the world when, on a trip to Africa, he said the AIDS problem there could not be resolved by distributing condoms. At that time, he said their use exacerbates the problem.
AIDS prevention advocates welcomed the pope's stance on the issue.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe called it a "significant and positive step forward."
Rebecca Hodes, deputy director of the AIDS and society research unit in South Africa, says this change of heart could save many lives.
"It will give people more space to protect themselves and to protect their partners, if they are able to use condoms without feeling morally fraught."
The Pope's comments are part of a series of interviews to a German journalist to be published in a new book this Tuesday.
But because he maintains the church's ban on the use of artificial contraception is not in question, Catholic reform groups and AIDS activists want the pope to clarify his comments, and elaborate on exactly which 'exceptional circumstances' would make it okay to use condoms.
On Sunday, Pope Benedict celebrated mass for the new cardinals that have joined the elite group that one day will name his successor.
During the ceremony the pope presented each of the 24 new cardinals from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the U.S. with their rings.
In his homily, the pope told the cardinals their ministry is a difficult one, and that their service is one of faith that transforms one's whole life.
Cardinals are the pope's closest advisers. It is an elite all-male body with members from every continent in the world. The College of Cardinals now numbers 203, with 121 under the age of 80 and with the right to vote for a future pope.