At a conference in Rome which ended yesterday, he told theologians, philosophers and scientists from all over the world that he is 'mobilising' his bishops to get their flocks to use the rhythm method.
The Pope and other delegates at 'The Natural Regulation of Fertility: the Authentic Alternative' conference examined approaches to family planning which excluded modern 'sinful' options like contraception, abortion and sterilisation. They heard of radical new research into the rhythm method, including the 'temperature method', in which thermometer levels indicate a woman's fertile period.
The Pope acknowledged that a couple might reasonably want 'limiting or spacing' between the birth of children but said that this was only legitimate for a good Catholic if their thinking was 'serious' - perhaps related to poverty or poor health - and their methods 'natural'.
Less than 7 per cent of the world's population use natural methods and the decision to market 'natural family planning' comes at a time when many in the Church believe that non-Western countries are increasingly susceptible to the export of 'sinful' approaches to contraception such as the Pill or the condom.
'At the Earth Summit in Brazil this year, it seemed as if all the world's problems could be solved if we could just get the Third World on the Pill,' said Kevin Thomas of the Catholic Media Office. The Pope predicted that the campaign to get Catholics using the rhythm method will begin in Russia, where he already has the support of the authorities.
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