Pope Benedict XVI says that condom use is acceptable "in certain cases", notably "to reduce the risk of infection" with HIV, in a book due out on Tuesday, apparently softening his once hardline stance.
In a series of interviews published in his native German, the 83-year-old Benedict is asked whether "the Catholic Church is not fundamentally against the use of condoms."
"It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution," the pope replies.
"In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality," said the head of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.
The new volume, entitled Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, is based on 20 hours of interviews conducted by German journalist Peter Seewald.