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International recognition to Pope Benedict XVI.

French First Lady Carla Bruni applauds the Church declaration on the use of condoms to avoid HIV.

French first lady Carla Bruni has publicly thanked Pope Benedict for saying the use of condoms to prevent HIV/Aids may be justified.

She said in an interview to mark World Aids Day that she was “astonished, surprised and grateful” for the Pope’s remarks, publicised last month.

“I think this is quite an enormous step towards something very new,” President Nicolas Sarkozy’s wife said.

Her brother Virginio died in 2006 of an Aids-related illness.

Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy has long campaigned for HIV/Aids awareness and acts as an ambassador for the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

This November, the Pope was quoted in a book as saying that condoms could be used in certain circumstances.

Clarifying his comments, the Vatican said the use of condoms use by men and women to prevent HIV could be an act of “responsibility”.

“I have been touched by the very recent declaration by Pope Benedict XVI and am grateful,” Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy told France’s RTL radio station.